I wasn’t there when Greasy Lake taught at EndGames some months ago, but one of the exercises they introduced has quickly become one of my favorites: Cop Confessions. The exercise forces one to practice justifying interesting choices made by one scene’s partner as well as establishing the pace of a scene.
The exercise breaks down as follows:
- Two cops are investigating a crime scene. (~ 3-5 lines)
- Cop A confesses to some prior crazy action to Cop B. (1 line)
- The other cop responds with, “That makes sense because you’re ___,” filling in the blank with a core personality trait that would justify the prior crazy action. (1 line)
- The cops vamp on the personality trait. (~2 lines)
- The cops return to neutral and talk some more about the crime scene. (~ 3 lines)
- Repeat steps 2-5 but with Cop A and B switching roles.
The exercise is as fun to watch as it is to play, and I’ve found that the resulting scenes carry some interesting features:
- At any point in the scene, at least one character is grounded.
- There isn’t tension between the characters in the scene; instead, the tension is between the characters and the audience.
- Despite the lack of tension between the characters, the confessions allow the characters to develop distinct points of view, resulting in something that’s richer than a typical “peas in a pod” scene.
- Because each character’s confession is justified with a personality trait, we can transport the characters to a different environment (separately or together) and examine how those traits play out.
Because of these features, some variation on this exercise could function well as an opening or a first-beat scene in a Harold, but I rarely find myself in these types of scenes. When I assess my own style of play, I’ve found that I’m more likely to react to moments of tension like a confession with an emotion, which turns the tension into something that affects the relationship rather than something that allows the improviser that introduced the tension to discover something about their character. That’s not to say one choice is more likely to lead to a stronger scene, which I don’t think is true, but I would like to vary this up in my scenes and see where it goes.