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by Darren Held

I can’t read your minds, people. I know sometimes it seems like my skills know no bounds, but honestly, telepathy isn’t one of them. That’s important to remember in real life, as well as in improv.

Sometimes a scene will go kind of wonky, and when we discuss it after the fact, it turns out that the improvisor had something very specific in mind, but somehow failed to communicate the information to their scene partner(s). Often, they are surprised that what they imagined wasn’t perfectly clear to everyone else in the room.

I totally get that. For example, we did a show last night that went GREAT. No surprise there, since we are damn funny most of the time. We tried out a new game called Old Coots, that was a big hit as well – it’s 3 old geezers watching something going on and commenting on it and each other. In this case, we were 3 nursing home residents watching a neighbor hang out her laundry. The scene was going well, and Andy added a bit about the woman hanging up just one sock, then commented about my bad attitude. Viet added a great line about me being crotchety and mean and lonely – and clinging on to any men I could find.

I loved those labels. And I thought it was a perfect analogy for the lone sock – this lonely old bitter woman who doesn’t have a mate, but clings to people the way socks cling to other laundry when you forget to use fabric softener.

That’s what was in my head. But even though I am usually the Queen of Information, all that info didn’t come out. What came out was, “What’s the deal with the one sock?” or something along those lines. The whole analogy about my life = a solitary sock with static cling got stuck in my head.

So instead of taking those awesome labels and adding information to them that tells us more about this character, it looks like I just wanted to change the subject and talk about socks. Bitter old ladies are interesting; socks are not. Just sayin’.

That’s why it’s really important in improv scenes to SPELL IT OUT. My scene partners didn’t know what was in my head, so they couldn’t really build that part of the scene. The moment had passed, so I had to let it go as well and continue on with whatever we had now.

Let’s just say we’re talking about real life now, instead of improv. Turns out, in real life, people can’t read your mind either. So rather than getting mad at your partner, boss, kids and parents for not knowing what you meant, try just saying exactly what’s inside your head.

Oh, and if you want help learning to listen and respond in the moment, saying what you mean, try taking a H2G improv class. I really mean that.

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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