Rebecca and Rich Sohn were in town for workshops, during which they raised the point that jumping into scenes quickly with bold physicality and voice could not just create strong scenes, but would also recreate the initial adrenaline that drew many of us to improv in the first place. That is, stronger, quicker, and more committed choices are key to having more fun when improvising.
In one exercise, we were told that our scenes would be five seconds, and later that they would be fifteen seconds, where the end result was that the five-second scenes on the whole were less careful and more dynamic. In another exercise, we revisited characters we had created earlier in the day and had the essence of those characters interact with the characters of other improvisers in different environments. In still other exercises, our walk and posture informed characters and scenes. In all of these situations, I felt like the scenes became interesting roughly at around the time that I found something fun for myself in them.
Focusing too heavily on aesthetics can sometimes take away from fun, particularly if there is an expectation about how something should look or feel and that expectation isn’t met. On the other hand, if a team is in the habit of practicing toward a certain aesthetic, removing those expectations may inadvertently cause the end result to be close to the same look and feel. For instance, our coach gave us the chance to do a pressure-free montage during today’s Harold practice, which was a lot of fun, but in hindsight, that montage was effectively a standard Harold with the opening removed, albeit one in which the first beat included tags.
While I strongly believe that audiences like watching improvisers have fun on stage, it isn’t helpful to tell improvisers to have fun. However, I think that like scene work skills, fun is something that can be nurtured during practices. At another point in today’s Harold practice, we ran an exercise in which we invented a game using gibberish, and we had so much fun with the resulting game that we played it again at the end of practice.