Continuing my series of posts about improv fundamentals, today I'm going to talk a little about some principals of intermediate-level long form improv!
Something that good improvisers tend to do instinctively is avoid situations that will turn into a giant mess on stage. It's a good instinct to have, because nobody wants to see a scene where everybody is talking at once, and the audience wouldn't have any idea what's going on. However, this good instinct can lead to some problems when a long form improv show hits its climax. Which leads me to our next point...
Don't be afraid of action!
I know that actions scenes can get out of hand very easily, but when you're doing musical or long form improv, action scenes become absolutely necessary. Nobody wants to see a climax where the good and evil ninja talk out their differences. (Actually, that does sound kind of funny.) Some of our best climax scenes have involved a bobsledding race or a quick ride on a rocket ship chasing a tornado into outer space.
Most of our worst climaxes have had a very distinctive pattern: the scene is obviously building up to a fight of some kind, but the characters keep finding ways to avoid it. But the audience wants to see something happen! Nobody wants to watch you stall because you're afraid of what's going to happen.
The other day I did a long form source scene which involved a conversation between rival knights who went to knight school together. The cool part of the scene was that even though it was centered on the relationship, there was a sword fight going on for the better part of their talk. (Shout out to Kate Dorhout, my lovely and talented partner in said scene.)
An awesome climax with action is the difference between a good piece and a legendary piece. So go crazy!