I love a silent stage in front of a full audience. It’s comfortable. It is the most comfortable place in my entire world. It represents so much potential energy, so many outcomes, so many ways a scene might go. Locking eyes with your scene partner as lights come up is what I think heaven feels like. There’s so much happening while nothing happens and moments like that feel like minutes when really it’s probably 10 seconds. Something sits in your gut that tells you exactly the right time to talk, exactly what to feel, exactly how to move. All of the information you need is right in front of you. The audience feels it. You partner feels it. Your soul comes alive and any panic or anxiety you have flees your body in search of some other improv victim. There’s something about coming into an improvisational scene where you and your partner have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen and you get to ponder the possibilities like silence before the storm.
Silence may seem like nothing is happening. Two motionless people not speaking sounds like an even bigger void. How can two people stare at each other, expressionless and motionless and be interesting? The tension built in silence creates its own device. The human brain begins to imagine things happening when nothing is happening. The audience begins to will the scene to life.
I’m not saying that an improv scene should be 20 minutes of staring contests, but it also shouldn’t be a talk fest. Your lines should mean something to the other person and your partner should take the time to let the lines land on them so they can react properly. Be patient with your scene. Trust that everything is going exactly how it’s supposed to. Throw away any judgement or preconceived notions about your scene. Just look at your partner when you get lost, slow down and figure this out. Shut up. Keep the weird to yourself, unless it makes sense.