I’ve heard it from a few places: “Avoid transaction scenes.”
And it’s good advice if you’re starting out. It’s a common go-to because that’s, like, 90% of the interactions we have with people we don’t know. When we’re starting improv, we don’t usually know the other performer in the scene with us. So, hey, fall back on the default interaction, right?
But… you know what transaction scenes are great for? Character work.
Here’s an exercise:
Four improvisers are on stage. One of them is the clerk at a fast food restaurant the other three are standing in line waiting to order. Each of them picks a strong character that is far from their real self. In turn, the three customers step up to the cashier and orders whatever they like. The store has it in stock regardless of how ridiculous the request is (yes, and!).
I’ve found that the characters that come out of these exchanges are WAY stronger than I’d get out of the students when having them do other types of scenes. The weaknesses of the transaction scene (short, meaningless interaction between strangers) is a strength here as it allows the player to focus on their character choices (physical, vocal, emotional, point-of-view and so on).
It’s not something I’d necessarily put in a show but it definitely exercises a set of improv muscles that can be tricky to work out.