Hey everybody! This week we're going to talk about one of the most fundamental skills of improv, and also one of the most neglected: listening!
Listening sounds like a skill you'd work on in kindergarten, but I actually see collegiate improvisers screw up on listening more than anything else. There are a lot of things that you need to listen to in an improv piece, so let me break it down for you.
When somebody says a character's name, that's their name for the rest of the scene. (And the rest of the show in a long form piece.) It's really important that you remember the names of other characters and your own character. Otherwise you might accidentally give a character a second name, or you might want to start a scene with that character but not know how to call them on.
If another character mentions a trait about themselves, or if they start some kind of pattern, you had better remember it. Otherwise you're missing out on the funniest parts of the show! Calling things back from earlier is one of an improviser's most powerful tools! DeBono often ends games of freeze with a callback to an earlier scene. (It's more than just a long form thing!)
This one is especially true for us at DeBono. It's super important to listen when you're making music! The people outside of the scene need to know what's going on in the song and they need to remember the chorus. Whoever is singing has to listen to our incredibly talented accompanist for musical cues. Making a song takes a lot of listening.
Probably the most important, and also the most basic. If you're in a scene with someone, listen to them! Internalize every word that they say! When you really let everything they say sink in and take the time to think about it before responding, you get much better cooperation. Listening to each other opens you up for all sorts of patterns and games within the scene, and just makes for a much more natural scene. I've done exercises recently that emphasize listening to your scene partner more, and they've been super helpful to me. (Shoutout to my fantastic Titanic Players coaches, Marybeth and Ben.)
So in conclusion, practice listening to and internalizing everything said during improv! It's such a basic skill, but it makes all the difference in the world.
It's like I always say: you learn more when listening than when talking.
I don't always say that.