Once in an Improv class, we did 13 runs of "Wolf vs. Chicks". The want is simple: for chicks, is to protect the baby chick, which is hanging at the end of the line; for the wolf, is to capture (touch) the baby chick so that she and her children can have food. The chicks need to survive from 2 minutes of the wolf's frequent and fierce attempts.
We struggled in the game. We found it hard to find an appropriate strategy. We found it hard to keep the energy for whole two minutes. We found it hard to keep holding on to each other and listening to Mama Chick's orders... but after all we learnt a lot about how this games - together with several other games we played in class - reflects the situation of an improv game:
We should keep working our butts off until the scene is called to stop.
We should keep the level of energy on stage very high, in order to face the high stake of the situation.
We should be ready for and adapt to changes every second.
We should treat what we want as a "life-and-death" matter.
We should cooperate with each other. There is not a specific person to blame if a scene fails. Failure applies to every actor in the scene.
In Scene Study class, after Stanislavsky 101, we did an exercise of shopping in three lanes and talking to the person we love. After that, an exercise of two-people scenes.
We often hear Lindsay saying that "now you are doing it at a 4-5 out of 10, I want you all to do it at a 10 out of 10." We did it the next round, and there was much more fun and conflicts.
Lindsay always takes "avenging the death of my father" as an example. If the character, she says, is 100% eager to kill the murderer who killed her father and is willing to do anything in many different ways to achieve this, then the play would be interesting. If the character is like "oh... am I going to do this or not?" or "I should be polite. The murderer's bedroom door is locked," then there is barely anything to watch.
In the exercise of duet scenes, the two people have a relationship set for them, and one wants something from the other, while the other says no. We had prompts like the following:
A high school English teacher wants the braces of his student for one day because he thinks braces are super cool
One jelly bean wants the flavor of the other jelly bean
A girl is going on a Safari to Africa, and her BFF wants her to chop off her hands so that they can still hold hands when she is away
Then we were given words or phrases as tactics to get want we want. We had phrases like the following:
To please; To threaten; To dehumanize; To pray; To flirt; To compliment; To blame; To budget; To baptize (getting weird...); To fry an egg (not literally, but to get the essence of the action); To bake a cake; To pick your nose; To read a newspaper; To evacuate; To erase...
As listed, these prompts are really ridiculous (and entertaining, because we need some spice for the night classes). The other person keeping saying "No." makes the steak constantly high. As the actors 100% committed to the scene, it became enjoyable and hilarious in a positive way.
"There is nothing more awkward than watching an uncommitted actor not feeling comfortable on the stage," said Lindsay.
In conclusion, we as actors need to raise the stake to make the scene interesting to watch, and be fully committed to make it believable and enjoyable.