Blocking the Offer

I just finished watching a video of a show I recently did with my improv group. Wow, do I ever look weird on camera. I got a very different perspective on my stage presence. Some hints to myself for potential improvement:

1. Work out more, buddy. Your shirt was taking up too much room on stage. It would have been okay if the video was shot in widescreen, but unfortunately it was made for TV.

2. Less blocking, more flow. I noticed that Jay, especially, is very good at taking a cue (“offer”) and running with it. The others were pretty good too. I was pretty good at throwing ideas out there, but I could have given more energy back to the offers being sent my way.

For those not familiar with improv theatre, I’ll explain. To make an improv show interesting and fun, everyone has to keep up the flow of responding to each other’s ideas. Because there is no script, it’s all about building an idea on the spot. So if Jay says, “Hey, let’s go to the park!” the most improv-friendly thing I could say is “Ya! That’s a great idea! Maybe we’ll bump into those hot girls we saw the other day.” Respond positively, and build on it.

The wrong thing to say – and there is such a thing as right and wrong with improv – is, “Na. The park is stupid. Let’s do something else more fun.” And stop.

That last line is called “blocking.” (Not to be confused with “blocking” in mainstream theatre, which refers to the placement of actors on the stage.) In improv theatre, “blocking” is when you block someone’s idea and stop the flow. I never intentionally did this, but it happened when I didn’t listen properly to what the others were saying. Perhaps I was too busy in my own head thinking of something clever on my own, instead of taking the offer (the other guy’s line) and building on it. I didn’t exactly say ‘no’ directly. But there were a few times when I simply didn’t respond at all to what someone else was saying or doing, and I headed in a different direction entirely.

All that said, I had a great time doing the show, and I’m looking forward to more improv shows in the new year.


About Craig

Craig lives in Calgary, Alberta.
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