How I Developed the Play by Play Approach to Improvising a Full Length Play

Before I started improvising, I had been writing plays for several years. My plays were being produced on the university and offBroadway level, and I was wrapping up two degrees from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, a BFA from its dramatic-writing program and an MFA from its musical-theater program (writing it, not singing it ). The best book that I had ever read about playwriting was called Playwriting, How to Write for the Theater by Bernard Grebanier (Harper and Row, 1979). It is still the...

Info

Copyright under Berne Copyright Convention, Universal Copyright Convention, and Pan-American Copyright Convention. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior permission of the publisher. An imprint of Allworth Communications, Inc. 10 East 23 rd Street, New York, NY 10010 Interior design by Robin Black, www.blackbirdcreative.biz...

Spontaneity versus Structure

Improvisation is a constant balance between spontaneity and structure. Even the simplest performance game depends upon shaping our spontaneity into a purposeful form or structure. We do this by imposing restrictions upon it, by restricting the way we can move, the number of words we can use, or the order in which we can speak or by any of the millions of other rules that contribute to the phenomenal wealth of improv games that have thrilled audiences for years. Far from being antithetical,...

Third Evolution Core Function

Routine, in the world of the play, is committing a specific action, on stage The Structure of a Full-Length Play 37 The characters face the consequences of having broken their routine. They encounter difficulties and struggle against them to survive. The characters embark toward success or failure. The characters either succeed or fail, a new Foundation is built, and a new routine established. Here's a brief overview of the five units that comprise The Middle THE FOUNDATION FOCUS The Foundation...

Exercise Character Foil

Player 1 and player 2 improvise a scene throughout which the characters are developed in contrast to one another Player 1 Hey, Jimmy, look. It's a cave. Player 2 A cave Player 1 Yeah, come on, let's go inside. Player 2 Oh, uh Okay. Yeah, let's go inside. (They enter the cave.) Player 1 Wow, I bet that nobody's been in here for a million years Player 2 Hey, we better get out of here, Barry. I'm kind of scared. Player 1 Aw, you don't have to be scared, Jimmy. I'll protect you. Besides, it's just...

Exercise The Expanded Story Spine

This version of the Story Spine adds the offer And that's when to allow for The First Significant Repercussion, the offer Which raised the question to allow for the articulation of The Question of the Play, and a new Because of that . . . section after The Climax in order to show how The Climax leads to the answer But one day . . . (First Significant Event) And, that's when . . . (First Significant Repercussion) Which raised the question . . . (The Question of the Play) Here's how the expanded...

Scene B

Agatha Trimble, I am very impressed. Player 3 Well, thank you, Jonathan. Player 4 And nobody else gets the run of this place Player 3 Oh, my nephew has a key, but he hardly makes use of it. Gosh. What would he say if he knew that his old Aunt Agatha was being romanced, right here in the cabin, by a boy his own age Player 4 Twenty-nine, and I'm still a boy Player 3 Jonathan, sweetie, I'm fifty-three. Player 4 Well, I hope I don't remind you too much of your nephew....

Exercise The Story Spine

The Story Spine is an excellent exercise for learning how to build a well-constructed story. Simply improvise the endings to each of the following sentence starters This can be done as an individual exercise or in groups, with each player taking the next line. Do it fast and have fun Here are some quick examples Player 1 Once upon a time there was a frog named Freida who lived in a swamp. When I first created the Story Spine, it didn't have a name. I simply called it Once Upon a Time . . . It...

Dramatic Alignment or Dramatic Conflict

After The Moment of Engagement, one of two things will be true. The Forces will either have objectives that align or objectives that conflict. If their objectives align, they will have either the same objective or complementary objectives. An example of two Forces having the same objective would be my example from before in which the two prisoners both wanted to escape from the cell. An example of two Forces having complementary objectives would be if one of the prisoners did not want to escape...