A Reason to be Angry

I find anger to be both the easiest and the hardest emotion to improvise.

Anger is often used as a shortcut to introducing conflict into scenes. But when we are angry in real life, it is largely due to lack of clear communication, both with ourselves and with the other person. Resentment builds up when people put up walls between each other. Even when that resentment shows itself in bickering and argument, the result is never satisfying, and the walls are only reinforced. Arguments tend to lead nowhere until the anger dissipates and communication can resume. Conflict without communication is two people banging their heads together. That’s not drama; that’s physics.

Does this mean anger should be off the table for improvisers? Of course not. All emotions are useful starting places, but we should avoid the trap of pursuing anger as an end in itself, which is a real life trap as well. As long as we are fearful of what might happen if we expressed ourselves openly, we will be inclined to fall back on resentment, a common default among nervous beginner improvisers and among me when I’m not on form.

When you find yourself angry in a scene, it is essential not to drop your fascination and fondness for the other people on stage. And no, it’s not easy. Discover what need you have that your partner does not meet for you. Get to the heart of the conflict through communication. Tell them out loud, with words, from your mouth. Just tell them!

This clip, about anger and energy levels (from the aptly named Rick Goodfriend), falls into the schmaltzy-but-true camp. I hope you find it as useful as I did:

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