A scene can get away from you quickly if you’re not paying attention. Character names, details suggesting where you are, your name, your back story and a number of other clues are flying through you at the speed of now. Simultaneously, you are also throwing out a bunch of information for your scene partner to grab onto as well.
There are a few ways to capture this information, but nothing is a better technique than practice. The more improv you do, the more you practice. It doesn’t matter if it’s in front of an audience or with a single scene partner by yourselves. The more you practice, the more your brain will develop a better set of senses.
Instead of trying to capture every detail in your scene, stop providing more information. Use the information you have. If your scene partner offers that you’re at a pizza place, get into the Pizza place. Make yourself at home. Touch the things around you so that your mind can begin to map out where you are. It also allows your scene partner to see it too. Two people in a Pizza Parlor don’t just talk the whole time. They sit. They look around. They pick up a menu. They get a knife and fork and napkin. They pour a drink. Slow down. While the two of you prepare to eat, you’ll start to get a feeling about the other person without saying two words. Slow down. Stop adding unnecessary information.
Repeat what you are hearing. If you pick up a name or give a name, use it often. Find a way to rephrase what you are talking about in a way that adds more context.
“How was your day today, Marvin?”
“How was my day? You ask me about my day?”
“Yeah, Marvin. How was your day? You don’t have to be angry.”
“It was fine. My day was fine.”
How much information do you have to process when you are emoting on a couple of pieces of information? If your scene partner becomes a run on sentence, stop talking. Listen. Process everything and keep listening. Let go of the ordinary and hold onto a few of the shiny words that capture you. React to the very last thing they say while holding onto those shiny words.
There are an unlimited number of ways to capture what’s happening in a scene, but it all comes back to practice. Pay attention as much as you can while staying connected to your partner.
We hope this helps. As always, let us know your thoughts. What do you do?