Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Magical Moment

I wrote this as part of a post to my improv blog yesterday, but thought my readers here would enjoy it as well:

I had a moment in the show on Friday night that transcended being simply a “magic of improv” moment and became a “magic of storytelling” even a “magic of culture” moment.

I knew I wanted to do a scene with the bell (a little desktop bell-man’s bell frequently used in improv games), but I didn’t know what I wanted it to be. Because we’re not explaining many scenes in advance in this show, just about any scene might find itself “dinged” by the bell. Then it’s up to the improvisors in the scene to collectively and instantly decide what bell means, or what effect it has on the scene.

The default response tends to be New Choice, where the improvisor says or does something different from what they just said or did until the bell-ringer is satisfied with the new direction of the scene, but it could mean any number of things including Accent Switch, Genre Roller-coaster, Move-On, etc.

So I brought the bell out onstage and placed it on a chair, in a position of status, and then sat backwards in another chair looking at it intently. Mandy joined me onstage and as soon as the lights came up I said “I traded the beans for this bell.”

And that’s when it happened. A knowing chuckle rippled outwards through the audience as everyone in the theater and everyone in the cast knew that the bell was magic, without ever having to say the word “magic.”

That’s how I want to be able to tell stories, be they onstage or on paper.

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In 1789, the governor of Australia granted land and some animals to James Ruse in an experiment to see how long it would take him to support himself. Within 15 months he had become self sufficient. The area is still known as Experiment Farm. This is my Experiment Farm to see how long it will take me to support myself by writing.