Sunday, 9 October 2011

Staged kisses.

"In tonight's class, we're going to practise kissing."

These were the first words uttered by the teacher at an improvisation class I took some time ago.  We were part of the ensemble performing in a season of Theatre Sports and some of the stories had gone a bit astray when the people on stage squirmed away from kissing when it was obvious that the scene called for it.  In retrospect, it does seem a bit odd to have a newly engaged couple shaking hands to celebrate, or the reunited couple hugging, albeit warmly, or the couple farewelling each other with a wave as he goes off to war.  An audience knows how a story goes and things become stilted when the natural flow is interrupted.

So there we were, in class, and it was clear what that evening's curriculum was.  Some rules of engagement were set up and it was made clear that two people would just get up on stage and be given the beginning of a scene.  We were to carry the mantra "I am going to kiss you" in our heads throughout the scene and at the appropriate moment, lock lips. It did not matter what combination of people got to their feet.  This is the joy and terror of impro - you never know what's going to happen.  As a performer you have to be free and fearless to go where ever the story requires you to go.  Audiences love it because it could go wrong at any moment.  It's like trapeze without a net - audiences want the performer to succeed, but would also be secretly thrilled if it went wrong and they are just so very glad that it's you and not them up there.  It could go wrong!

As could this class.

I jumped to my feet first along with a man whom I liked and trusted.  What a relief! I knew it would be okay.  The scenario given to us was a cliche, but that was good because everyone knew where the story had to go:  I was a woman at home alone.  I'd called the plumber because there was an apparent problem with the hot water. My husband was away.  He was there to fix it.  With his strong masculine presence.  (That's how plumbers fix things you know.)

So the scene started.  I had my mantra in my mind.  The temperature of the scene was increasing.  Our eyes were locked.  It was time for the pay off.  He started to move towards me. And...I broke eye contact!  I had also broken the magic and mood of the scene.  What was that about?  I felt terrible.  We were directed to try again.  We rewound the scene to a few beats before the kiss.  I wasn't going to break eye contact this time!  We kissed.  But the magic had been used up. Our classmates in the audience applauded.  An important lesson had been learnt.

I think I looked away because I had a crush on my scene partner.  Our first kiss was going to be as other people in front of other people.  How confusing! I had become myself in the scene and was in reality rather than make believe.

For the next couple of hours everyone in the class went through the same experience.  After class, notes were swapped about who had played by the stage kissing rules and who had become a little over enthusiastic.  For the next few performances if people needed to kiss, they all kissed.  We had broken the hoodoo.  And then it became a little bit old hat.

It was certainly one of the most memorable classes I've ever taken.

No comments:

Post a Comment