In some previous blog entries, I discussed a technique of navigating your way through an improvised scene which I called feel it more fully and more completely, or, in a simpler and more useful formulation, go inside and open it up. The gist of this technique is that in order to move from one moment to the next one in the scene, you need to enter into the feeling-state of the current moment, allow it to open itself up to have more depth and more dimensions, and this will bring you to the next moment. The details of the technique, as well as the explanation of these terms, are in the linked blog entries.

But in some situations, the directive “go inside of the feeling-state” doesn’t seem specific enough. There can be many things going on in any given moment of a scene: conflicting emotions, rhythmic or musical qualities, visual imagery, characters and dramatic situations, body sensations, and the complex combinations of these things which are coming from several performers at the same time. What aspect of the moment are you supposed to “go inside of?” Should you pick one, and if so, which one? Or is it a question of somehow going inside of everything, all at once?

In some situations, it seems intuitively clear how you can “go inside of the feeling state.” If the moment you are in is already dominated by an obvious “feeling” such as anger, you would simply go inside of the anger, allow it to open up, and this would lead you to the next moment. If the current moment is dominated by a physical sensation such as itchiness, you would enter into the itchiness to find the next moment. But what if the current moment isn’t dominated by an obvious emotion or physical sensation? What if it has several qualities going on at the same time? What if your imagination, in a given moment, is dominated by visual imagery which seems abstract, such as a blue space filled with purple spheres? Such a moment may not even have any human figures in it, let alone an obvious “feeling state” to go inside of.

To find the way to navigate through moments of this type, it helps to think of the directive “go inside of the feeling-state” as meaning “look for that part of the current moment which is most obviously a source of feeling” and move inside of that place. You could say that you are moving into the part of the scene which is giving off the most heat, the most energy, or which is simply something likely to open up into a source of feeling. You navigate through the scene as a sort of heat-seeking missile.

To cite some examples:

In the moment which is dominated by an obvious feeling-state such as anger or itchiness, the anger or the itchiness is the hot spot, so you would move inside of that.

In a moment where you are looking at a wooden chair, and have just made a statement about sitting in the chair, you might enter inside of the action of sitting. Enter into the feeling of really needing to sit down, into both the physical sensation and the emotional need, and allow that to open up and take you to the scene’s next moment.

In the moment dominated by the visual image of a blue space with floating purple spheres, you could enter inside of the color purple, and try to open up the feeling-state associated with the color. Alternately, you could enter inside of the roundness of the shape of the spheres, which might very well connect up, in your mind, with some previous imagery from the scene. Or you could equally well enter into the calm spaciousness of the blue.

The important point to keep in mind is that, as you take a breath between phrases or beats of the scene, and you prepare to reconnect with the underlying feeling-state and navigate to the next moment, you train yourself to go towards that aspect of the current moment which most attracts your attention and seems most capable of being a source of more energy and more feeling. You don’t have to pause or step outside of the moment in order to “make a choice” and you don’t have to worry about “whether or not you chose the right thing” because any choice you make will be the “right choice.” Any aspect of the scene which attracts your attention, and which yields feelings, energy, and imagery, will work equally well to lead you to the next moment. The more you remain fully immersed inside of the energy of the scene as you make your choice, the more inevitable it becomes that your choice will lead you into imagery and feelings which are central to the unfolding story of this particular performance and its concerns.

One real world example that I think illustrates the potential of this idea well can be seen in the improvisation which forms the basis of my 2010 film Marvelous Discourse. The improv is an extended dialog between myself and Ian W. Hill, in which we had made multiple references to prophecy, oracles, and visions. At one point, I talked about watching a puppet show performed with shadow puppets. Ian responded with an almost facetious comment about those “shadow tricks” people sometimes do at parties, using their hands, and he said he had learned to do “Abe Lincoln, both with and without his hat.” His comment, with its jokey tone, had no obvious relationship for me with either the content or the emotional tone of the scene we had been performing, as I searched for a way to “go inside of” what he had just said.

Intuitively, I saw that the most attractive part of what he had evoked was the image of Lincoln’s hat. In my mind, it was as if the hat was emitting a faint light for me, compared to the rest of the moment, which was comparatively barren and blank. I imagined myself entering into the hat, or becoming the hat, and I began a speech which concentrated on the word “stovepipe” (the name of the style of hat which president Lincoln wore), and this image of the long, iron stovepipe eventually led the two of us to the idea of a lightning rod, a conducting bar of iron, which inevitably led us back to the images of the oracles, and prophecies which were the main center of interest in the film. Because I had remained firmly embedded in the world of the scene as I made my choice, Ian’s seemingly irrelevant remark about Lincoln’s hat became a portal which led the two of us inescapably deeper and deeper into the heart of the story.

Using your scene preparation, make yourself into a heat-seeking missile, and train yourself to move instinctively and directly into that aspect of the moment which gives you something to feel. The feeling will lead you to the imagery and the language of the next moment, which will lead you deeper into the heart of the particular world and particular story of your scene.