Transaction Scenes

Transaction Scenes

A recent post on Facebook got me thinking more about Transaction Scenes. The comment, loosely paraphrased and my apologies if I misinterpreted, was that the reason transaction scenes often don’t work is because there is no relationship. 

There is a lot of work put into impro training in the area of character relationships. I find this interesting.



1. The condition or fact of being related; connection or association.

2. Connection by blood or marriage; kinship.

3. A particular type of connection existing between people related to or having dealings with each other.

4. A romantic or sexual involvement.



1. The way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected.

2. The state of being connected by blood or marriage.

By the above definitions anytime we have dealings with or are connected with someone we have a relationship. In a transaction scene we have strangers interacting it is their first moments of connection. This is a gold mine of story possibilities. The problem in these scenes is not the relationship, but improvisers focusing on playing the action (in word and action) and avoiding the interaction. Not allowing the meeting to impact you.

In a play you wouldn't write a transaction scene just to watch people do the transaction. When Harry Potter buys his wand it isn’t simply about the transaction of purchasing a wand. Think of all we learn in that transaction scene. The interaction reveals something to us. This impacts the character and adds to the story.

The audience doesn’t want to watch the mundane activities of life. If we watched Harry Potter shopping for school and learned nothing we’d know it was a waster of film. Audiences come to theatre to escape the mundane. If they are watching a toaster being returned they want to know why.

If you are in a scene returning a broken toaster try letting something change you. Change emotion and see where it leads. Or try to change the other improviser and see what happens. Interaction and change gives the scene a point.

These moments of interacting with strangers are rich in potential. Strangers are interesting, risky, alluring, mysterious and dangerous.

Keith quote: “Don’t look for an offer assume one has already been made”

You don’t need to search for a relationship beyond strangers, because strangers is a relationship in itself.


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