It is relevant to review my blog entry A Heat Seeking Missile. The blog entry is about the idea that you navigate through the scene by moving directly into whatever aspect of the current moment feels the hottest, into whatever seems to be filled with the most energy and feeling. This principle will help with your awareness that every single image, feeling, character, or situation which appears in the scene is significant, and adds to your overall picture of the world of the scene.

For example, near the beginning of our first improv, you made a speech about squirrels being “disgusting” animals, and described their filthy habits. You ended the speech with a reference to them “having sex with dogs.” While you were speaking, I attempted to enter into the feeling-state of your words and your voice (as the technique requires me to do), which was obviously dominated by this feeling of disgust and revulsion. But as I did so, your reference to sex, at the end of the speech, was an obvious red flag to me, because sexual issues are often hot button issues which drive the dynamics in human experience. It is not that I consciously analyzed your words, but that when you said the words “squirrels having sex with dogs,” it was as if I saw those words glowing much brighter than any other words in the speech. Intuitively, this part simply felt hotter. As your speech ended, I entered even more into the feeling of disgust (as the technique requires me to do), but it was specifically a disgust with the physical nature of my own sexuality. (Of course, I never personalize material when performing, and I didn’t think of this as meaning that I, David, really felt disgusted with my own sexuality, but that the character I was playing at the moment was feeling such a disgust.)

When I began to speak next, I talked about reaching for “book I, which stands for Incest.” Note that, at the very beginning of the improv, we had both referenced a collection of alphabet books which contained some kind of secret knowledge, and so I had retained that image as one of the key images of the piece. (Both of us, in fact, referenced this image throughout the remainder of the piece.) Entering into a revulsion with sexuality, what I found was the traumatized feeling of a child who had been sexually assaulted by a family member.

One could probably say that if you also had been following this principle (of the heat seeking missile) you would have felt my reference to incest as being the aspect of the moment which was the hottest, and not merely the hottest, but it would have been glowing so brightly red as to be obliterating everything else. Loud alarm bells would be ringing in your mind. I say this because, generally, a person who has been sexually assaulted as a child is so traumatized by the experience that it becomes a controlling factor in their life, and almost everything that happens to them, for the rest of their lives, is somehow colored by this experience. The experience of childhood sexual abuse is so crucial and so central, that if this emotional area appears in an improv, it almost certainly will become one of the most central issues of the world we’re exploring, if not the central issue.

Of course, there are no rules in this work except that whatever you experience during the piece is the piece, so there could be possible versions of this piece in which incest did not become the central issue. The point I’m raising here is that, in particular when your scene partner is doing a longer monologue, when you try to enter into the feeling-state of his voice and words, you should especially gravitate to the hottest point, the aspect which seems to contain the most sensation and emotional life. The hotter that thing is glowing, the more likely it will be that this particular image, or this particular emotional area, while be of central importance in the piece. If it is glowing extremely hotly, it will likely become extremely important in the piece.

It is also important to note that, sometimes, nothing in a particular moment in a scene is glowing very hotly. Nothing in what your partner said is particularly vivid, emotional, or evocative. You still use the same technique here: you just find something in the feeling of the moment which seems even a little bit attractive, and enter inside of that thing. Then relax, and allow that feeling to expand inside yourself, until it blooms out into language. If your partner makes a neutral and casual description of a floor lamp in a living room, it might seem that this image (and the way his voice sounded) isn’t particularly evocative or filled with emotion, but the neutral, casual tone of his voice is itself a particular emotional tone which you can enter into and explore. Perhaps it is the illumination of the light from the lamp which will yield the most feeling, when you enter inside of it. Or perhaps it is the electrical cord, flowing with energy, and with potential danger. Even if nothing in the image seems striking or promising, just choose something and go inside of it, then allow it to open up. There is always something, inside of every moment, which will lead the way into the next moment, and you can’t make any “wrong choices.”

Here are the details which allow you to discover the coherence and connectedness of the scene, as it unfolds:

Your overall objective is to have as rich and full an experience of the world of the scene as you can. Your action is to enter into the world of the scene, and then go deeper and deeper inside of it, finding out more and more about what it is like inside of that world.

You know before you start that what you are exploring is one world, not unrelated fragments from several different worlds.

You know before you start that it is a meaningful world, like a dream, in which every single image, feeling, character, or situation which appears is there for a reason, because it illuminates everything else in the scene. Nothing appears by chance, and nothing is unrelated to the scene.

You know that each thing that appears in the scene makes your experience and knowledge of the world of the scene richer and more complete. Your knowledge of the world of the scene becomes richer and fuller all the time, as you open up the scene and discover new hidden aspects of that world.

In particular, you navigate through the scene by entering inside of the hottest, most feeling-filled aspect of each moment, opening that feeling up, and discovering the next moment. If your scene partner is speaking, you enter into the feeling-state of his voice and words, and the next words you say will come directly out of that feeling-state. Because you know that the new moment comes from entering into the previous moment and opening it up, you will know and expect that each new moment will, in some way, illuminate the previous moment, and reveal a hidden, latent aspect of the previous moment. It may relate to the previous moment in an extremely oblique, poetic, and obscure way, but you will expect that something about this new image or new feeling-state illuminates the immediately preceding moment.

When any particular image or emotional area is glowing really hot, meaning it simply feels very, very full of potential emotional energy and imagery, you will know that this image or emotional area will likely be of central importance in the world you are exploring.