Ask for: Horse
Standard 1-person opening:
A player walks on stage, begins miming an action (with sound effects). When it’s clear what the action is, a second player walks on and opens the dialogue.
Player 1: [mimes brushing a horse]
Player 2: [walks on] “Sir, may I ride your horse?”
Player 1: “You can ride behind me, kid. Only one person can tame this horse, and you’re lookin’ at him.”
Standard 2-person opening:
Two players walk on stage. One player makes a verbal initiation.
Player 1: That’s the horse I’m betting on.
Player 2: Are we allowed to be here in the owner’s backyard?
Player 1: I just want to make sure the horse is healthy before the race.
When I started doing improv, I was taught the standard 1-person opening. Its strength is that it’s a controlled opening: it establishes what you’re doing, it might set up where you are, and there’s little room for confusion off the top unless the mime work is poor. It allows you to take your time.
Its weakness is that it’s safe and low-energy. If you leave someone on stage for 10 seconds miming something, the energy bottoms out unless the miming is very big. It also invites the players to talk about the action or the object of the scene, rather than making the scene about the people involved.
I like 1-person openings as a change-up. If the end to the last scene was big, loud or busy, it’s a nice change of palette. I also like them if I have an idea for an initiation that involves setting something up before the next person enters.
However, over time I’ve switched my default opening to 2-player. The difficulty in just beginning a scene without a quiet setup is overcome by a strong initiation. Particularly in long form, you’re opening the scene with an idea. It’s always best to articulate that idea off the top, rather than trying to play coy. Put your cards on the table, and start improvising from that point.
Thanks to those of you who came out to the Level 3 Showcase Wednesday night. I saw classmates become a confident cohesive unit. They supported each other with timely entrances and exits, and didn’t try to hog the limelight. And, they were funny!