By Darren Held

If You’re Not Eating a Banana, You Should Be Making Eye Contact

by Sonnjea Blackwell

We had a party this weekend, some of my improv homies and me, and we played some drunken improv games. Because that’s just how we roll.

So anyway, we started by playing One Word Story, which is a game we play the very first day of Level 1. Everybody gets in a circle, and we tell a story about some silly thing – but each person only gets to say one word. It’s about listening and letting go of any agenda and making eye contact.

I literally have no recollection what the story was about this weekend, but I do remember somebody didn’t make eye contact with the next person in the circle. She hesitated, looked up at the ceiling – and I hollered, “MAKE EYE CONTACT!”

Yeah, I’m a lot of fun at parties.

But then she DID make eye contact with the next person in the circle, and she said a word that made total sense and the story kept going. Yay!

The point of this story is less about me being some kind of weird uptight improv drill sergeant and more about the fact that, even drunk, I know how important eye contact is. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve seen somebody struggling to think of something – anything – to say, and when I remind them to make eye contact, they look into their scene partner’s eyes and just instantaneously know what to say.

So much communication happens in the eyes. Sometimes you look at your scene partner, and you realize that they’re truly there with you and you know everything is going to be okay. Sometimes, it’s almost like you’re psychic… you look in their eyes, and you suddenly know what they’re thinking so you go with it. Other times you look at each other and realize you both have literally NO idea what’s about to happen and you’re excited to see what you create together.

Eye contact is scary, I know – trust me, it was very difficult for me to learn it. It’s revealing and intimate and makes you vulnerable. And yet, paradoxically, it’s accepting and gives you courage and strength. And you can’t do good improv without it. So there’s that.

(And for what it’s worth, I didn’t critique anybody’s drunk improv. I’m not THAT girl…)