Tag Archives: improvisation

Pull the Trigger

Pull the Trigger

A huge portion of my improv and performance philosophy are encompassed in these 3 words. So I am ongoingly stoked that David Kantrowitz made one of his Improv Artvice images out of that quote from my classes.

I am none the less stoked that the quote was submitted by me myself. He’d asked for quotes!

Crank up the brightness on your screen, then stare at this image for 45 minutes before starting your next show. If you’re not sure what to do, blink – you’ll see this key instruction seared into your eyelids.

Pull the trigger.

Any trigger will do.


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the 3 Pillars of Excellent Scenework

Teaching, coaching, studying, performing, and thinking have distilled things enough for me to begin giving students what I’m calling

The 3 Pillars of Excellent Scenework:




Emotion on the part of the character.
Decision, bold decisive action, by the improviser and, often, by the character.
Silence used, kept available, and defaulted to by everyone involved.

These pillars are standing on a foundation of the basic fundamentals we are all given in level 1: Agreement about the reality we’re creating. Support and taking care of each other. Attention. Care. Serving the scene over the characters. Specifics. Clarity. Simplicity. Devotion. Trust.

Once you’ve got that basic foundation in play, emotion, decision, and use of silence can raise your scenework to the next level.

These are things present in excellent scenes and likely missing from the mediocre.

And when in doubt, or in a stall, adding any of these three will likely get things moving again.

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Quotes: Arthur C. Clarke

“How much of this, Jan wondered, had Karellen planned, and how much was masterful improvisation?”

– Arthur C. Clarke, “Childhood’s End”

When it goes well, we’re all Karellen and the audience is Jan.

When it goes really well, Karellen himself starts to wonder.

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Quotes: Robert Jordan II

“It was easier to be brave, he discovered, when someone needed your protection.”

— Robert Jordan, “The Eye of the World”

Part of how improv brings those low on self-confidence out of themselves, in the moment, is by placing them on stage, in crisis, in a situation where they need to help take care of another person who is counting on them.

Like the petite Mom who lifts a car off of her daughter’s leg, the shy, hiding person suddenly stands up tall, projects his voice, and embodies the world’s most flamboyant mad scientist. He would never do it alone, on his own behalf — but he’ll do it when it’s what his comrade, and their shared project, needs.

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