3 Quick Tips For Attacking The Stage
Actors who attack the stage stand out to me. I don’t mean literally punching and kicking the ground or being a steamrolling partner. I mean when an actor starts a scene with crisp and detailed movements, makes a fantastic initiation statement, and goes about beginning the scene like we walked into it already in progress. This kind of confidence stands out to the audience too. When you attack the stage, scenes are set up for success much better than two people feeling their way through what is happening.
The good news is you can play with this confidence even if you don’t have any. We’re all just pretending up on that stage anyway, why not pretend to be confident? Here are a few tips for attacking the stage and looking like a confident improviser. Try one of these techniques out next time you get some work in.
Don’t wait for your partner
You can start speaking even if no one has joined you on stage. If you start speaking like someone is there, your team will pick up on this and someone will join you. Not to mention, you can prime them for what they are doing so we can get started quickly. You literally can just point to an empty part of the stage and tell your team what to do.
For example, while pointing to an empty part of the stage on the ground
“Lisa, hurry up and finish digging, the guards are coming.”
Someone should jump out and play Lisa almost instantly. You gave them a gift, they don’t have to think about who they are or what they are doing. You don’t have to wait on your partner to get started, just start.
Use chairs for anything except sitting
Sitting can slow action to a halt. Some actors use it so they have time to think. Until you build more natural instincts, use your chairs for anything else other than sitting. Make them a part of your environment, an extension of your body, or just anything that isn’t a seat. Not only does it look more interesting to the audience, but using the chair for anything else gives you and your partner something to do and react off.
I’ve seen chairs used a wings, as a robot, stacked to build a wall, a way to make yourself look like a giant, a peg leg, and a shield. Be creative, be bold, and don’t sit down!
Speak a truth or a discovery
The first line can set the tone in a big way. Tell yourself, your partner, and the audience what is happening with a bold line to start a scene.
"I found the secret of life."
"We’re rich, Janet!"
"Dancing makes me feel alive!"
"You broke my leg!"
"I’m not leaving this office until I get a raise."
Be assertive, be bold, have a strong opinion, and confidence follows. If you start with a statement that expresses an opinion or a fact, it gives your team a very clear way to start the scene. Don’t overthink it. Puff out your chest, say something like you believe it, and watch the magic happen. This does not mean be a screaming maniac that is not letting anyone else speak, you still need your partners to be able to create what comes next.
These are just a few tips for attacking the stage. Like a lot of things in improv, this is about balance. Sometimes it’s OK to feel out a scene, but other times an audience wants action. Be brave and give it to them. Attack the stage!