Over the weekend I was incredibly happy to be able to take two (out of the three) workshops offered by Dave Razowsky. It was a pleasure and a privilege to be able to take classes from this man who is decidedly an improv guru. He comes from Second City and The Annoyance and has worked with the likes of Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Tim Meadows, George Wendt, and the list goes on and on. He also currently has a podcast, The A.D.D. Podcast, where he brings his old friends in for an informal chat. (I highly recommend it.)
What he teaches is being in the moment. This is easier said then done. We all know as improvisers that the place to be is out of your head. Live in the moment. The past and the future are enemies to the improviser. But how does one do this? By noticing everything. Keeping your ears and eyes open and inviting to everyone and everything around you. Notice the small movements of your fellow players. The smallest gesture can change the most basic tenants of your partner’s character. One of Razowsky’s sayings is, “You don’t know who you are until your partner tells you who are you.” Meaning, you may think you’re doing one thing but if your partner sees something different then you must go with that. Yes and it. “The moment you question yourself, you’re lost.” (This is the one I have most difficulties with. My writer brain gets in the way.)
The title of the first workshop was named “Instant Characters.” It was about using your body to create your character the moment you hit the stage. The way your foot steps, mimic that exact step with your next and next, move it up to your knees, to your hips, to you torso and finally, to your head. If you hesitate with your first step use it. If you step out with your non-dominate foot that will change the way you move. Use it. “Character is the connection to your body before your brain.” The most astounding thing about this that I found was the moment it was in my body I instantly knew who this person was, their gender, their age, their job, where they live. I didn’t have to think about it. I didn’t have to create something. It was already there. “We are enough.” It’s true that the body connects us to our brain. Before we were sentient beings we were animals using our bodies to communicate. Going back to that makes more sense than anything else.
The second workshop was about group play. This was where my brain had to work a little harder. Group play is all about who you feel connected to at that moment, even if you’re only connected to yourself. We worked in groups of three and used the feelings we had internally to see who we felt allied to (allied not meaning friends, but who we felt a connection to, good or bad.) If we felt a connection to someone we pointed our bodies toward them. If we only felt connected to ourselves then we pointed our bodies to the audience. This is the easy part. It’s feeling the shift in allegiance that takes nuance and awareness. Again, being mindful, being aware. While going through the scene your allegiance shifts, the energy shifts. I can be alined with one person but they say something and I’m now alined with myself. Then the other person says something and suddenly I’m alined with them. Confusing but really powerful when everything falls into place, when everyone is cognizant to the energy shifting. “Hold onto your shit until your partner gets to you.” That’s when your allegiance shifts. And remember a scene is not about conflict. It’s about pressure, tension, and dynamics.
I’ll leave you with one more of his sayings that really hit me. “Stop listening to your brain, start listening to your heart.”