The power of giving a damn

Frankly, my dear…

Summing up can be hard to do. I am, by my nature, a loquacious individual with lots of opinions that I want to share with my students. I tend to give a ton of notes and try to answer every issue any actor is having in the moment. So, it’s nice to be able to be concise, sometimes.

Last Sunday’s Workshop-in-Progress was fun, and we got to explore “Cut the Red Wire”, a monologue-filled treatment of the split-second decision-making that comes up in so many action movies. Kudos to Mick Govern (another TM alum) for coming up with the premise, and kudos to all the WiP’ers for really going for it. While it had its issues, it was fun to give it a shot. I’m sure I’ll write up something about “scene ghosts” later, but that’s not what this blog is about.

At about the midpoint of WiP, one of the workshoppers stopped me and started to lay out what she had been tracking from my copious notes as the “most important” things to remember. Now, I usually try to specifically align my notes to the individual performer, but with the caveat that, if you hear a note and think it could apply to you, it probably does. She had tracked quite a few different things I had been saying, and I found myself wanting to simplify things to keep from overwhelming everyone with notes.


So what I told her is simple: Give a damn. Care.
That’s it. That’s the biggest “rule” I can give anyone in any improv scene, anywhere. It takes care of so much.
If I give a damn, then I will be emotionally connected to my scene partner.
If I give a damn, there’s stakes, instantly.
If I give a damn, I won’t be talking about people or situations outside this room, because the person in front of me is so damned important.
If I give a damn, I won’t feel the need to invent something “witty” or “interesting”, and will stay connected.
If I give a damn, my character will likely know the other character for 6 months or more, since you don’t tend to realy give a damn about people you’ve only just met.
If I give a damn, my questions will not simply demand my fellow scene partners provide information. They will be specific and pointed and give as much information as a statement.

So that, combined with “Be Somewhere” are my two biggest rules. Do them in every scene, and you will be in good shape. Oh. What do I mean “be somewhere?”

Somewhere… really anywhere.

If your scene is “somewhere” as opposed “nowhere”, then there’s much more to work with. All too often, I see scenes that go on in a vacuum. No environment whatsoever, and if there is one, it is almost immediately discarded when the players have something to talk about or they get distracted.

If your scene is Somewhere, it can ground you in a real place.
If your scene is Somewhere, it can give your hands something to do, so you’re not just thinking of the next thing to say.
If your scene is Somewhere, it can give you a way to express emotion beyond words and tone.
If your scene is Somewhere, it will get you out of your head.
If your scene is Somewhere, it will give you more opportunities for discovery- emotional, narrative, and historical.
If your scene is Somewhere, it will keep you from floundering mid-scene while you scramble to find the right words.
If your scene is Somewhere, it will let your scenes feel like they’re just an audience peeking into the life of real people.

So that’s it. Give a Damn, and Be Somewhere. I think I fixed my verbosity.

If you can make it out an join us this coming Sunday, please do. First time is always free, and then it’s just $5. And there’s always candy! 🙂

Please note, we will not have a WiP session on Sunday, March 11th, as we’ll be holding auditions for Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics that day. You’re welcome to come audition for that, as well, if you like!

Tony Rielage
Artistic Director
Theatre Momentum

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