By Darren Held

Resistance is Futile

by Sonnjea Blackwell

I’ve been working a lot with the idea of resistance lately and, as you might imagine, I think some of my thoughts are pretty awesome. So I decided to share them with you.

First of all, I apologize for the dearth of posts this past month. Sometimes my improv world gets a little hectic.

And now, on to resistance. According to Google:

the refusal to accept or comply with something; the attempt to prevent something by action or argument.

the ability not to be affected by something, esp. adversely.

In improv, we know we’re supposed to agree with whatever is happening in our scene. And yet, so many times, we throw up barriers and roadblocks to letting our scene unfold. We don’t deny – we’re too advanced for that, so we don’t flat-out block anything. But we resist.

I had trouble with this concept at first, because I was sure I was agreeing with everything. But deflecting information, introducing new information when we haven’t even dealt with what’s already there, talking about stuff rather than relationship – these are all ways of resisting what my scene partner has given me. Arguments? Resistance. Not caring? Resistance.

After a bit of conscious effort, I began to see exactly how much I resist in scenes. And once I saw it in myself, I started seeing it in others as well. It’s not because people are trying to be assholes or have their own way. It’s largely because in life, we resist change and the unknown. Improv is 100% unknown, which triggers that knee-jerk reaction to resist. Maybe my scene partner throws out some topic about which I know nothing; my reaction will be to instead talk about something I do know about.

It’s perfectly fine if that’s your initial, gut reaction. It’s not fine if you go with that instinct. Because you’ve basically told your scene partner, “I don’t like your idea, I want to play with mine instead,” and that’s the antithesis of what we do in improv.

I think that second definition is an important one to consider as well… resisting in the sense of not letting things affect you. Argggghhhh. I am so freakin’ guilty of this. In life, it’s a good thing, right? If we are resistant to things in this way, we don’t get every cold that’s going around, we aren’t swayed by others’ sometimes negative opinions of us, we can march to our own drummers.

But in improv? Nope… not a good thing. We need to be affected by everything in improv. It all matters. It impacts our characters personally. And we have to show how we’re affected by stuff.

I hear you all hollering, “Okay, Sonnjea, we believe you! What do we do about this problem?”

First of all, listen. Really hear what your scene partner says. Then latch onto the most important and/or interesting bit of information, and go with it. Add one small bit of information to it to expand on what’s happening between you on this big day. Then listen to their next line, and so on. We don’t have to create elaborate plots and story lines; honestly, all we have to do is listen, react, and add on to the thing that we are building, sentence-by-sentence, together. The big plot and the “funny” in the scene will then develop naturally.

I’m going to resist the urge to make an analogy between improv and real life here, because I think it’s clear and I don’t want to insult your intelligence. Also, I have a weird desire to go watch Star Trek The Next Generation now…