In certain improv situations, you can find yourself feeling completely stuck in the middle of a scene. I’m not referring to feeling stuck because you can’t think of a new idea. Presumably, if you are following the technique which I’m outlining in this blog at all, you are familiar with the basic idea that I don’t recommend that you improvise by “trying to think of ideas.” Rather, I recommend that you proceed through the scene by feeling how the scene’s energy transforms itself over time. You use your body, your voice, and/or your words as a tool to feel how the energy of the scene develops over time. Since you are proceeding by feeling what is already there in the space and in your own body, you never need to invent an action or think up an idea. But what if you are already working the way I recommend, feeling the energy of the scene, and you find yourself mired in a particular kind of energy that is like hitting a brick wall over and over, and you can’t seem to get yourself out of it? The scene seems to come to an insurmountable block.


This will typically happen in moments of the scene where the emotional energy is itself about a feeling of being stuck, such as when your character is panicking about a dangerous situation, and doesn’t know what to do, or your character is trapped in feelings of rage or hopelessness. It can also happens when your character (or the flow of the scene) reaches a state of extreme low energy and listlessness, and it feels like the scene will never move again. How can you get unstuck, when the energy you are inside of feels like a completely stuck energy?


It is important to remember that when I say that you proceed through the scene by feeling the scene’s energy, that this energy is always in motion. It is always flowing in some way, whether it moves smoothly and easily, or with a jerky and irregular flow, whether it moves with lightning speed, in a moderate tempo, or with glacial slowness. The energy never comes to a complete standstill. And, in fact, when you “feel the scene’s energy,” one of the main things you are feeling about that energy is how it is moving.


The next time you feel like your energy is stuck, remind yourself that you must feel how the energy flows. If your character seems trapped in a mood of rage or frustration, keep focusing on feeling the way that that rage or that frustration gradually (or maybe suddenly) transforms, breaks through, and becomes the next, deeper development of the scene. Simply saying to yourself “feel it flow” should be enough of a hint. When the scene seems to be stuck in a moment of terminal slowness of stillness, remember that although the energy may be moving with a thrilling, tantalizingly glacial slowness, it never completely stops. If you keep your focus right inside of the incredibly slow motion, you will catch the exact moment in which is starts to pick up again, and the audience will be thrilled to feel everything almost come to a halt, and then pick up speed again. (You can hear Beethoven use this dynamic trick over and over again, in his piano sonatas.)


You can incorporate this idea into your preparation for the scene. Instead of saying the words “I will feel the energy of the scene” as part of the preparation, make sure you always use a phrase such as “I will feel the flow of the energy of the scene.”