Diagnostic

[There is a quote later in this post that would likely be censored on public radio but isn’t here.]

While I regularly receive notes or side-coaching for individual scenes in practices, it had been a while since someone called out a pattern in my improvisation that it would help me to break.

Mick Napier did just that today along with a constructive way to handle it. The way he conducted the diagnostic was to have us do scenes for the better part of an hour, and run us through them faster and faster to identify our tendencies. After the scenes, he went to each person individually, explained what tendencies he saw, and gave them a challenge/exercise to do for the rest of the week to work on it.

The last time I’d received a note about any tendencies in my style of play was back in March of 2014 when Andy St. Clair visited EndGames and ran us through a gauntlet exercise. After the exercise, he told me that I should be more careful before adding detail during a scene. By way of example, Andy cited the following scene:

KRISH’S CHARACTER sits down and starts eating. DAN’S CHARACTER walks in and sits down at a different table from KRISH’S CHARACTER.

DAN’S CHARACTER: Great presentation!
KRISH’s CHARACTER: Thanks, Jim!

Andy noted that since Dan’s character was seated away from me, we might not be familiar enough with each other to be on a first-name basis.

Flash forward to the present. Mick observed that I looked like I was “searching for words” before adding specificity in scenes and suggested that I practice delivering authoritative, detail-filled lines.

We had a chance to practice this during the final part of our session with him, and while I practiced delivering these lines, it felt awkward for me, and I worried that I was inventing, so I decided to ask Mick about striking the right balance between invention and discovery.

“It has to do with exposition of dialogue,” he responded. He contrasted the initiation, “Tom, I’m your brother Jim, and we need to clean the garage before Mom and Dad get home,” with, “The clutter in the garage is fucked.” The second initiation doesn’t artificially invent a relationship, scenario, and stakes for the other character to have to deal with but still provides a lot of specifics like “clutter” and “garage” while also indicating how the initiator feels about it.

With that clearer in my mind, I have a pattern to break.

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