On the Level

published7 months ago
2 min read

April 2021

Hello, YOU!

It’s full-on Spring-time where I am, and with that, the chance for outdoor performances while we wait for theatres to open. What’s it like where you are? Any shows on the go, online or off?

Spring always makes me think of climbing trees, so that’s the feature topic this month. Enjoy!

Levels and Climbing

[Another excerpt from The Improv Illusionist book, coming soon!]

It’s fun to play with Levels, where characters are in the same location but above or below each other. How do we show Romeo serenading Juliet on her balcony if the actors are both standing on the same stage floor?

This is a specialized kind of split-screen, which you make more believable through the directions the players face. You’re looking toward where the character would be instead of directly at them. Obviously, a character that is higher up will look down, and those below will look up. The more you match body and head angles with your partner, the better this looks.

I don’t recommend you maintain these situations very long. They force you to break eye contact with your partner, which degrades your scene work. Look for reasons to get back onto the same level as soon as you can.

You can also play with travelling between levels. There are lots of options: stairs, ladders, ropes, trees, and anything else you can “climb” up or down. As you climb, bend or straighten your body to add the visual impression of going up or down. When climbing up, put your hand on the space where the ledge is, and “pull” it down to the floor so that you’re standing on it. When climbing down, you might add a little trouble finding the bottom with your foot before you step “down.” Or you could “drop” the last few inches by giving a little hop.

As a scene partner, you can help by adjusting distance and head angle as the person climbs. This gives the impression that the person is travelling toward or away from you.

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Question(s) of the Month

I’m building my summer reading list. Have you read any good improv books lately?

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I’ll be back on May 27th. Enjoy the sunshine… or the rain!

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