Try a Different Perspective
“It is natural that people tend to gravitate to the place that makes them feel most comfortable.” — The Tao of Improv
Someone brought a camera to the improv show or rehearsal. It’s time for a posed, group photo. You know the one. First, look normal. Then, look crazy!
In case you hadn’t noticed, the same people tend to pose in the same places nearly every time. It’s always the same two or three (or one) smack in the middle of everything, possibly lying across everyone’s laps or in the center of a tableau. And it’s always the same two or three (or one) in the back row, peeking over shoulders, almost an afterthought, almost an apology, and most likely to be cropped out of the photo when it’s posted online.
And another group kinda finds its place in between these two extremes.
You can be sure this same dynamic will play itself out onstage. The scene grabbers. The wall huggers. The middle group.
There’s actually nothing wrong with being in any of these groups. Whichever one you’re in, it’s likely that you do it because it feels most comfortable. Which means that joining one of the other groups would make you less comfortable.
I’m a proponent of finding ways to be less comfortable onstage. The audience paid for seats. They deserve to be comfortable. You, the improviser, should be teetering on the edge of your comfort zone.
Here’s a way to do that. Arrange another group photo. This time, push the cold, outer planets to the center of the solar system, banish the sun to the inner or outer fringes, and place the in-betweens in either extreme. If you’re a director, force this to happen every now and then. And strongly encourage it in the improv scenes.
No one is being punished. They are just getting a chance to see their craft from a new perspective, which may open up new pathways in their minds. Hotshots, see what it’s like to be a bit player for awhile. There may be things about it that you like, or at least learn. Shy players, grab the spotlight, make some noise and shake things up now and then. Same reason. And in-betweeners. Live on the edges.
Sure, you can go back to your comfort zones when the experiment is over or when the director gets tired of torturing you. But when you go back there, you may not be the same improviser anymore. And wouldn’t that be cool!