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by Darren Held

My current focus for my own improve-your-improv campaign is making stuff matter, raising the stakes. I mention this because, well, Richard isn’t always around to give me suggestions for blog posts and it’s the main thing on my mind at the moment.

You did know this blog is all about me, right?

Last night in a drop-in class, we did a bunch of character exercises, which is always fun and challenging for those of us who can’t act. I suppose it’s fun and challenging for people who can act as well, but since I have no idea what that would be like I’m just guessing. In one exercise, we first did a short monologue as a city – any city – taking on a voice and posture and giving information as if we were the personification of that city. I chose Bakersfield.

What? It’s a city. Anyway, my take on Bakersfield was slow, gruff and kind of an “I know nobody really likes me, but you can’t really live without me” attitude. Not a mean, in-your-face attitude, but more of a resigned yet not pathetic outlook on life.

The next step was to create a human character out of that personification, and that part went fine as well. Martha had the same resigned yet somewhat confident attitude that Bakersfield had. The final step was to put that character into a scene with another person’s character from the same exercise.

As soon as Antonio and I opened our scene, I realized what the problem with my Bakersfield/Martha character was. She was resigned. She admired Antonio (Kimmy) for his cheerfulness, but she didn’t take action to be that way. She didn’t resent her coworkers for taking advantage of her, she simply made it okay by misfiling reports.

This wasn’t a full-blown scene, it was just a quick exercise to see how these characters might interact with others and to give the players a chance to let the characters move around and do stuff. If it had been a “real” scene, the only way to salvage a resigned character would be to have THIS be the moment when she snaps. Either she’s done being resigned and decides to embrace life, or she goes the opposite direction and gets all up in everybody’s grille about taking advantage of her or whatever.

By Sonnjea Blackwell

Darren Held
About Darren Held
Darren is the CEO and Creative Director of Held2gether, Improv for LIfe. He has been teaching and performing improv for 15 years, and has performed with H2g, the Groundlings, UCB and Second City. He loves Moto, red wine, and Madonna.

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