29 Oct Back to the Futures
I’m really excited about Open Roads. I’m excited by the potential of the project to expand the range of improv currently being seen in London. In particular, the longer timeslot than is usually available in improv nights offers the opportunity to create a more dramatic, slow-burn, emotionally-grounded improv that says something about what it is to be human rather than aiming purely for lolz.
One way in which the Open Roads format creates this type of improv is by the use of “futures”. In the second scene, each improviser stands and states their character’s future – a clear want, something that matters to them, that they have decided to do at some point following the road trip. The basis of play between the improvisers in the rest of the show is to explore the reasons behind these futures, the characters’ feelings surrounding them, discovering why these futures matter to them, what that reveals about their relationships, personalities and the past experiences that shaped them.
This makes for really interesting revelations to happen along the way, as we discover how the characters feel about each other’s futures, how their decisions affect each other, and how events on the open road can make them reconsider their decisions, or to double down on their resolve.
Besides which, I discovered that giving my characters a future also gives them a really strong filter through which to view the world. It automatically gives them opinions on everything that happens along the route. Stopping for coffee in a roadside diner can trigger different emotions and discussions, depending on whether your character is intending to declare bankruptcy, to go into rehab, or to join a radical anti-capitalist movement, for example. Even the simple question of what to order will play on each character’s preoccupations in a different way and reveal more about what they feel about themselves, each other, and life.
This is satisfyingly similar to Stanislavski’s approach to analysing scripts – where the actor is encouraged to find their character’s objective within each scene, and their “super-objective” which drives their actions throughout the whole play, in order to inform their performance. It’s great to find that this approach, although developed and taught to support text-based performance, can also be applied to text-free performance, enabling emotionally truthful relationships and narratives to emerge naturally from making one clear choice at the top of the show.
And if we ever feel lost in a scene, besides having the relationships and the space to look to for inspiration, we can always come back to the futures…