This is Bryan Sullivan, cast member of Interrobang Improv. It’s my turn to write about this week’s rehearsal! This week is especially awesome to write about because Interrobang was a trial audience for a new workshop by Dart London, esteemed cast member of Jet City Improv, and stellar guy. “Blink” is based partially on a book of the same name by Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell proposes the idea of two types of thought. The first type is “slow thought”, categorized by rational decision making and the weighing of different options. When using “slow thought” we think about likely outcomes, and consider both the past and present. Specifically, in regards to performing improv, consideration of plot or relationship falls under slow thought. If I as a performer attempt to drive a scene towards a certain outcome then I am using slow thought to make those decisions.
The other type of thought proposed by Gladwell is “fast thought”, categorized by unconscious decision making. Preconceived ideas, and stereotypes fall under “Fast thought,” If someone asks the question “ How’s it going?” our response, either “fine” or “good” or whatever, is fast thought. We don’t usually take the time to consider how our day is going; we give our automatic response that we have given for years to such a common question. In regards to performing improv, emotions and characters can both fall under fast thought. If I was told in a scene, “Your father has passed away.” my emotional response would be almost automatic, either sadness or anger, or some other like emotion.
Enough technical stuff, Dart led us through several exercises that helped us to think about when we use slow or fast thought. One of my favorite was an exercise where two people were told to do a scene but a word or two had to be substituted, and if the audience or your scene partner heard you say the forbidden word they would make a game show buzz. I was in the first scene and I had to replace the word “The” with “Qua”. I stumbled through it, and all those times when I would have used fast thought and automatically used “The” I had to stop and use slow though when replacing it. My scene was sloppy and choppy. With each new round however, more and more words were replaced. By the time Jillian and Jim did their scene, not only was “The” replaced with “Qua”, but “This” was replaced with “Blart”, and several other words were replaced. I was astounded with how well they did, but again they had to stop and use that “slow thought” from time to time.
Another exercise stretched our fast thought muscles, we lined up in two lines and cycled through with one person starting a scene and the other person giving an over the top strong emotional response. The results were hilarious, with extreme fear, or happy reactions to lines like, “Will you open this can?” As the workshop continued on, I felt more and more in tune with my fellow cast members, our “fast thought” was more and more alike, we didn’t fight against what our minds told us. I thought less about what a scene was about or where it was going, and let it develop in front of me, trusting my fellow cast members and excited to find out what was going to happen next. Dart brought up a great quote from the author Ray Bradbury, “Plot is no more than the footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations.”
As a person and performer I am very drawn to plot, and giving meaning to each scene and each interaction, I want to tell stories. This workshop didn’t take that away change that for me, but I think it came at a crucial moment for Interrobang when we’re adding new faces and gaining trust in each other. We are learning to tell stories together and learning what stories each of us wants to tell. Each of us has so many exciting experiences and ideas, and personalities that can and will combine to create an incredible and original product.
Dart’s workshop stressed us out and, and made us laugh. It helped me to break apart my decision making and experiment with story and plot creation. What you have just read, of course isn’t the entirety of the workshop but just a taste. This workshop was creative yet simple, It doesn’t tell you what you can do better, but inspires you to think about how you improvise and how others in your company improvise. I want to say thanks to Dart for trying this out on us, and have fun introducing this to other groups, that I hope will benefit from it as much as we did.
Stay tuned for upcoming Interrobang performances, and seeing some of the new blood like me improvising for you. As always Interrobang fans, thanks for your support and I’ll see you on stage.