Again! a discovery


I’m quite excited by a discovery from the Scene Work class a few weekends ago.

In looking at the participants in the class, I thought it would be good to work on spotting the moment when the advance needs to happen in a scene. This is a pitfall of most improviser’s narrative work. They can build till that moment but then fail to take the next big leap into the narrative unknown.

A great way of spotting this and feeling this is in a Word At A Time story using the Again!. With newer improvisers the Again! is usually called quite a few beats after the moment, with more experienced improvisers they tend to call the Again! right in the moment when they feel the scene needs to advance or the narrative breaks due to a block. At an instinct level we know something needs to happen…but what? This is why the Again! is often called at that moment and why it is great to learn that feeling and understand what it is.

So, I asked the class to play Word At A Time stories. I broke them into 3s, 2 playing and 1 observing as I feel it is good to witness this as well as feel it. They began to play the game and were happily yelling Again’ without hesitation or worry. They could feel the moment and yell Again! People were laughing and there was a good energy in the room. As I hoped we could point out the moment in a playful, fun, non-threatening way.

Now, the discovery.

Knowing the great impact the Again! principal has on Word At A Time, it made sense to me to apply this to scene work. I set it up in the same way with 2 people playing a scene and one person watching. The same narrative trigger happens in scene work as in word at a time we should have the same result in using the Again!. We should have a room full of happy improvisers calling out Again! admitting, feeling and understanding the moment with playful abandon and acceptance.

To my surprise only 1 out of 9 scenes did someone say Again! I watched 8 scenes where improvisers struggled, looked stressed and fought to make it work. The application of the playful Again! was not easy for them to put into the scene work as the word at a time.


I believe it is because of a couple of reasons. First Word At A Time is viewed as a game; therefore at some level people feel it is more disposable. However a scene is treated with a reverence which adds to the pressure of calling Again!.


Game or Scene, short form or long form, it is all the same work.

We tell stories in either a game or Scene, short form or long form.

We use the same impro principals in all of the work.

So why not play with the same spirit, abandon, obviousness and ability to admit in the moment?

I worked on the class to getting them to accept permission to say Again! in the scenes. This was enlightening and exciting. Once they began to do it, the same joy and play from the Word At A Time crept into the scene work. Players looked much happier and the scenes they were doing had more joy and risk in them. Players could feel the moment when they avoided or didn’t follow through the narrative instead of fighting blindly to survive.

When we admit to a mistake playfully we learn from it. When we keep fighting to survive, we just give our partners and ourselves a boring time. We know this, yet our ego and desire to be good keeps throwing us off the track of growth.

It was a great reminder of how quickly we can make mental choices about improvisation that changes the spirit and therefore impedes our ability to play, be fearless and present.


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