Character vs Actor

One of the harder concepts for new improvisors to understand is the concept of “Yes And” and how it gets played out in a real scene. The basics of “Yes And” are easy to pick up on. When an improviser is in a scene, agree to the base reality and add information. 

But when a scene starts to play out in practice, it becomes difficult to determine when to agree and when to disagree. If there’s a scene where people always it quickly becomes unrealistic. After all, in real life, people don’t always agree and conflict in a scene can be more realistic and  interesting.

A good, basic rule is when improvisers are establishing a base reality of who, what, and where that they should agree. In other words, they agree on where they are located, say grandmother’s kitchen. Who they are, say a brother and sister who are adults. And what they are doing, talking about grandma’s will. This is the actors on stage agreeing to a base reality.

But once that base reality is established, then the characters are free to disagree. The brother and sister, as characters, might be arguing over who gets to keep grandma’s bowl that she makes cookies in. So the characters disagree about the will. But the actors on their base realities such as location and who they are. In this example, they are in the kitchen, grandma has a will, and the cookie bowl is going to be inherited.

Like much of the advice in improv, the advice can be simple but the execution takes some practice. New improvisors can improve the skill by just being aware that there are always the actors on stage and separate from that there are the characters. This will help improvisors add depth to a scene by determining when to have conflict and thereby and interesting things.