One of the things that RiR tries to do on stage is make whatever the other person does or says REALLY IMPORTANT.
By that, I do NOT mean that everything Rich says on stage is world-shattering, the verbal equivalent of a vaccine or finding dark matter (sorry, Rich!). What I mean, is that every little thing Rich does will EVOKE A REACTION from me.
When we (improvisers) are on stage, I believe that we say and do things in order to get a reaction from our partner. If I say “Mom, I got an F on my test”, I’m saying that HOPING I get a reaction from my scene partner. Even if I say/do something with lower stakes. for example, “I’m hungry” or even a sigh, or even just standing there looking sad, I still do it hoping to get a reaction.
So, if, whenever I do/say something on stage, I do it hoping to get a reaction…then the REVERSE must be true…whenever my scene partner says something, or does something, it is to get a reaction from me.
I want to give a reaction to everything my partner says or does. I have to make everything my partner says important.
I try to this as best I can. Of course, I don’t always succeed. Take a look at an example where I actually MISSED what my partner says. I think I was focused more on what I was doing at the moment and I didn’t hear what he said. Take a quick look…(oh, and you probably need to know that we just juiced some celery. This is us drinking it for the first time.)
See? Rich gave this great line of “this celery is going STRAIGHT TO HELL!” and I missed it!!! Instead of catching that and reacting to it I, instead, just grabbed the juicer and threw it away. If I had heard it AND MADE IT IMPORTANT – in other words, reacted as my character or made a move because of it – maybe we could’ve next been in a quick scene IN hell where the devil was forcing people to drink celery juice. Or a scene about a dead celery. Or the devil itself drinking celery juice to lose weight. Who knows where it could’ve gone…and, unfortunately, we didn’t get to play those things because I missed what he said and wasn’t able to allow myself to react to it.
This next example is one where I DID make what my partner did important (whew!). And it illustrates 2 things: 1) It’s not just WORDS that need to / can be made important…it’s also physical actions or attitudes. 2) Trust your instinct. Ok, watch this clip…(so, in this one I’ve been trying to get Rich’s character to stop staring at a kaleidoscope and come to the work meeting since we had hired him as a consultant. Okay, I think that’s all you needed to know).
This was only a short clip but the whole thing about “standing up = about to get violent” became a game in the show that was played later and came back with a really fun callback. This wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t reacted to just the act of him standing up. For the record, I don’t know why at that moment I felt like he was about to be violent, but when he stood up that was my first internal reaction, so I went with it.
I know…there’s really no logical reason for me (the player or the character) to feel that someone just standing up from a chair – especially when I’d been asking him to – was a violent move. But, on stage, that IS what I – the actor – felt. I could have judged it, and if I had, I probably would have thought “well, that’s stupid, why would I think that?” And I wouldn’t have said what I did and the show would’ve gone in a different direction. But, instead, I didn’t even bother to judge and instead thought “that just popped in my head…I’m going to literally say those words.” So, I did, and by doing so, it led to some fun – wacky – stuff that still made internal sense because it was said AS A REACTION to something my scene partner did.
In my opinion, what you say or do doesn’t have to make logical sense outside the show. In the real world, I’d go see my therapist if I had that reaction to someone standing up. But, on stage, it doesn’t matter. What DOES matter, is that my reaction was a reaction to something my partner did. If I allow my reactions to be based on what my partner (or I earlier) did, then my reactions will make sense within the logic of the scene or show. So, trust your instinct when you make what your partner said important!
One more example! Watch this short vid…(in this one, we are window washers and at one point earlier, Rich called himself “half a philosopher”)
So, we’ve had an example of my NOT making what he said important and missing out on some fun possibilities. And an example where I actually DID make what he did (physical action) important…in this last example, I didn’t make what “I” said important. I said the line about the two of us making 1 philosopher as a throwaway line. I didn’t think it had much to it. But, Rich MADE WHAT I SAID IMPORTANT EVEN THOUGH I DIDN’T, and it led to a moment that the audience loved. If he hadn’t treated my throwaway line as important, we, and the audience, would’ve missed out on that moment!
The benefits of making what your partner says IMPORTANT (even if they don’t think it is!) are extensive….it’s a way to YES AND your scene partner, to support them, to let them know they can make any move and you’ll react to it. It’ll make the show seem more organic to the audience, linked because everything that happens is a reaction to what has already been said or done. It’ll create opportunities on stage that you weren’t expecting – and send you in directions that you couldn’t have written. And also, it’ll force you to be in the moment, truly collaborating with your scene partner and teammate(s).
So, try that sometime (maybe the next time you do a scene!) and just make whatever your partner says, important. Even if they, themselves, don’t! Allow what they say or what they do or even just the attitude/vibe they seem to be giving off to affect you and evoke a reaction. Make what they say IMPORTANT!