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Photo by Truthout.org

Recently, I started rehearsals with my new improv group, Dr. Safeword. I’ve been excited to start up with Dr. Safeword not only because I get to play with two of my favorite improvisers, James Sigmon and Joe Lewis, but also because we’re doing a monoscene. It’s just our three characters in one location for the entire piece. Slow playing in a monoscene really has reinforced some of my favorite improv things. All of this stuff applies to all scenes, regardless of length, but it’s a lot easier for me to focus on these things when I’ve got half an hour to rather than three minutes.

My first experience with the monoscene was three years ago when I started playing with The HomeWreckers with Sean Koegel and Anthony Silano. The HomeWreckers played together for over a year and got to play in the Improvaganza festival twice. What made ours so much to play in was the fact that we all had very different play styles that always took us to new heights and unknown territory.

Since a monoscene is just the one story, we have the entire 25-30 minutes to explore our characters and discover their relationships and motivations. The monoscenes that Dr Safeword have been doing are much more character and relationship focused. I don’t feel the pressure to tell a whole story in 3-5 minutes.

One of my favorite things about improv is building something together with my team. I love seeing one idea inspiring others to build upon it and create something way cooler than it started out. Playing slower has caused us to make more grounded, real choices in the scene. We listen more mindfully and are reacting to each other’s offers in more meaningful ways.

Playing slow allows us to really explore everything that gets brought up. All too often I see something come up in a scene and it gets ran past or never dealt with. Since we don’t have a teammate on the side who can end our scene at any moment, we’re able to open each gift and play with it. Everything is important. Even when it looks like a line gets dropped, it still affects the character that said it, and is able to come back later and affect the scene in a more meaningful way than simply being a funny call-back. I have been able to focus more on the characters and what’s happening and not think about plot and where the story is going. We’re letting the characters’ emotions and wants drive the plot to where it’s going instead of me trying to manipulate everyone else on stage to do that thing that’s in my head that they don’t know about.

In a monoscene we don’t really have a time limit and aren’t playing just one game that we have to constantly heighten and explore. Each character has their own game and each relationship they have with the others has its own game, so we aren’t taking one game as far as it can go, sweeping it, and starting a new scene. We give each game time to develop itself within the context of the piece as a whole.

I’m really proud of the work that my teammates and I have been doing with Dr Safeword. We’ve made some really good, fun scenes. Hopefully I don’t screw it up at our first show next month.