”Whenever someone comes to me for help, I listen very hard and ask myself, ‘What does this person really want? And what will they do to keep from getting it?” – William Perry, Harvard Professor of Education
Navigating life without a script means finding the balance between freedom and structure. For Improvisers, it means getting clear on the basics of the scene, feeling grounded in the structure so that we can move and build new ideas with complete freedom.
A trick we use to keep us centered, motivated, and able to navigate ambiguity is to know our objective in the scene. What is it that my character wants, and why?
Once we get clear on these answers, a scene can really flow.
But, how often do we go into a scene, a meeting, a phone call, a class, an opportunity and truly know what our objective is?
Getting clear on our objective does more than just help you – it helps your partner in crime. If I don’t know what it is you want, how can I support you?
For me, the most memorable Improv scenes to watch and to play in are those where characters have a clear objective that comes from a very truthful, sometimes vulnerable place. For example, they don’t just want to win the science fair, but they want someone to tell them how great they are… for the very first time.
Having a clear objective is a way to measure change. Did we get what we wanted? Did it mean something to us? What’s my temperature reading before and after? How am I progressing?
When I’m coaching Improvisers or those in a professional development setting, it’s common for people to either not have an objective or to not verbalize it.
We can’t always think of the objective spontaneously, but we can tune into the character, or ourselves to think about what is it that I really want? Sometimes it takes some work, and some encouragement:
- Know the “why”, not only the “what” – figure out why your objective matters to you. Sometimes asking “The Five Why’s” can help with this.
- Be open to your objective changing. Don’t hold so fast to it that you close yourself off.
- Finally – don’t be afraid to ask for help.