this is something i have been thinking about a lot over the past few months, and then i stopped worrying about, and then i remembered something i had forgotten. relearned something i had managed to unlearn. anyway.
emotional reaction and connection. long form improvisation requires this to a degree that's fairly astonishing. some acting techniques do teach that the only correct method in scripted acting is the calling up of genuine emotion in yourself.
improv is SO HARD because you do need to be able to react 'naturally' to everything that your scene partner is doing. and some people's natural reaction is to avoid, or argue or be passive aggressive... while that is REAL and NATURAL, such reactions are even more poisonous onstage than they are in regular life. i had (have) such a hard time with emotionally reacting because i don't do it very often; however exuberant and outgoing i am at times, i rarely have a geniune emotional interaction to someone. i might be touched by a story, or feel annoyed by some asshole thing they've said or done; but the actual interaction of emotions doesn't happen. or if it does, i do it really quickly and then distract them with a bunch of words afterwards.
i found myself struggling with this problem so consistently in improv that i hardly noticed it. it was EVERY problem, really. and while i have not overcome the problem (certainly not in my um... real life), i think it has become much LESS of a problem for me onstage. and only because i faked it. fake it till you make it. there is a great part of dustin hoffman's inside the actor's studio where he talks about how he worked himself up to flip out over the hot water in 'rain man'; and the emotion in that scene all came from his frustration and anger and rage at himself for not being able to feel those emotions authentically. so he took the emotion from somewhere else.
what does this mean in improv? i think it means that faking it works. that you should fake it. if you are a terrible or mediocre actor, you should absolutely still try to have an emotional reaction and let it show on your face and in your voice and body.
i think it comes down to that decision to commit.
very recently, i think i have finally understood what i need to do in order to improve my improvising. the vaguely frustrating thing is that it is something i have thought about in the abstract, and even given as a mental note to shows i tech or watch, and one which i KNOW intellectually is important, but which i, myself, have somehow managed to avoid applying to myself. i don't want to get distracted by this, but what the fuck? why do all lessons in my life seem to hover around my consciousness for a year before i actually pick up on them and apply them to myself? i hope this means i am noticing a pattern and that i will get better at noticing lessons i should be learning sooner, in the future.
ANYWAY; i refuse to be distracted!
the lesson is commitment. what i need to do, what i need to focus on forcing myself to do in every scene is COMMIT to whatever the scene or character is. commitment and emotional integrity. i had a scene in class a week or so ago where i made someone dr. mengele, i set us in holocaust-era germany; i mentioned lamps made from human skin and piles of gassed children's shoes. NONE of those things are funny, and there is really no reason that scene should have worked. physically, i did very little, except act a little distressed. but i committed to my perspective, and i respected that stage and that premise. the reason i harp on about this is that DURING that scene i felt myself desperately trying to distance from the terrible things i was setting up, but then another, wiser improv-trained part was like 'NO, if you back off now, it will suck. if you 'pretend' or act sarcastically, it will suck. STICK TO YOUR PERSPECTIVE AND COMMIT TO IT.'
i call my good reaction to that mengele scene 'improv wisdom', but i think that is dressing it up in fancier clothes than it deserves. i straight up finally drilled this lesson into my thick skull because of a show i did where i was just an asshole, the whole time. it was a castlemania! show, which i mention because it's a three person team. it's way harder to be a snarky dick when there are only 3 people onstage. the show was a frustrating one for me, since the only audience member was a drunk, back-talking barber from the place next door, and i just felt supremely uncommitted. and then wondered why all my moves were stupid and unfunny.
in conclusion... KATEY. QUIT BEING AN ASSHOLE AND COMMIT TO YOUR SCENES AND SCENE PARTNERS. maybe that will work this time.