Improv Corner – Painting a Picture

If there is one thing that I have learnt in Improv is that painting a scene is very important – it is very vital for both the audience and the players. It is importance for your audience because you are creating a scene and location for them to imagine out of nothing, it is important to your fellow improvisers because they are walking into the world that you are creating. There are many training techniques to get used to coming into a scene and here are a few that I have learnt throughout the time I have been doing improv.


The Photograph effect – Niall Ashdown

Now, i want to start this off by stating I am not sure if Niall is the person that created this training concept but it is him who i learnt it off. When I was in Newcastle I was trained for one night only by Impropera’s Niall and in this short lesson I learnt a lot about creating a scene and really thinking of the audience and your team as a whole.

To tell a story in improv it is better if it is told slowly and built up to gain major impact and understanding to the audience. In this exercise you sit in pairs and think you have a camera lens that you are looking through. Each time you imagine you have pulled the lens closer awar from an image.

So for example imagine you are looking at a pebble close up and then the camera slowly zooms out fo show that its on some sand and then it pulls out again to show its near a few shells etc.

This technique means that you are painting a scene for the audience and expanding their knowledge on this imaginary world that you have created.

Painting A Room – C3Something

One of the lessons that i learnt a lot at the C3 Somethin Drop ins is that painting a scene is important to do and can be done to create a scene and scenario on stage. Before any imporv is taught you all stand and walk into an “imaginery” room and imnteract with things that you see whilst explaining to the others what there is. Usually someone will come in and create the initial scene and then the others will build on what the original person said and make the scene a lot stronger – once there is a strong vision is in place you will then use these bits of information to create a scene.

For example, someone would walk onto the stage and say something like “i am in a bedroom, over here is my bed with a bedside table next to it. Across from the bed is a window with a window seal and next to this is a wardrobe.” The next person would walk on stage and then expand on this description. “On the bed there is a duvet cover that is not made up but instead scrumpled into a ball at the bottom of the bed. The window is slightly dirty with a cob web hanging in the top left corner.

The wardrobe is made of wood and is closed with a towel hung over one of the doors.”

Another person would them come is and add more stuff to the room whilst expanding the stuff thats already described. “I can’t see out the window very far because it is dark outside, next to the wardrobe there is a brown stained rug and on top of that rug is a dagger with a red mark on it. There is a strong smell of damp in the room.”

As the members of the team build the room they will then make scenes to do with what they have heard – so they may do a scene about a teenage boy who doesn’t clean up his room and likes to reenact action sequences in films with fake daggers and ketchup. It could be the location of a murder and the police officers and trying to work out what happened OR it could be two people in a haunted house coming across this room – THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS!!!!

Painting a Person – The Suggestibles

This is a different type of painting a scene altogether but it works really well and actually was pretty fun to learn through the Suggestibles as it was something that  I never thought of until I did this with them. There is a technique where you let the audience paint a picture of the player and not the scene.

Two people go on stage and ask the audience what do they look like then the audience will give them physical desciptions as to what they will need to consider when they start doing the scene. They will then ask the audience what they are wearing and then the audience will paint a description on that as well. By the audience doing this you are not in control of you scene or your status in the scene.

So for example – if one of your scene partner was painted to look dress up in a prom gown with jewels and diamonds with beautiful long hair and the other scene partner with warts and a long nose with rag clothing with holes in it you could end up doing a scene about Snow White or two sisters with different status or even a homeless person and a princess.

This technique is really interesting and the one thing that surprised me about it was the ability it has to paint really strong images that create really effective scene work.

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