Improvised Dialogues: Emergence and Creativity in Conversation (Publications in Creativity Research)
R. Keith Sawyer
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Improvised Dialogues is the first social-scientific study of Chicago improv theater. It focuses on the collaborative verbal creativity that improvising actors use to generate their unscripted dialogues. The author spent two years as a performer, and videotaped 15 different Chicago theater groups―both live performances and rehearsals―resulting in almost 50 hours of performance data. To analyze these dialogues, the book presents the theory of collaborative emergence, which focuses on how different pre-existing structures guide improvisation, and how actors use dialogue to jointly create a novel, dramatically coherent performance. Although the dialogue is not scripted, a highly structured performance emerges. Because these elements of improvisation are present in all linguistic interaction, the theory shows how these dialogues are relevant to all researchers who study verbal performance.
Improvised Dialogues is thus positioned at the intersection of several fields, each of which includes a tradition of research on improvisation and conversation. In sociology, researchers such as conversation analysts have long studied how participants in interaction creatively produce an orderly dialogue. In folkloristics and linguistic anthropology, researchers have begun to emphasize the importance of creativity in performance. In psychology, contemporary creativity theory has begun to take account of interactional and social factors influencing creativity. All of these fields study collaborative, interactive craetivity; no single performer controls the group, but each performer is subtly influenced by the actions of the others.
short to long, is also reflected in the later chapters of this book; Chapter 6 analyzes freeze games, Chapter 7 analyzes short games, and Chapter 8 analyzes longform. Freeze Games In a freeze game, a series of 10 or more scenes are performed in quick succession. A freeze game scene may be as short as one line of dialogue, and is rarely more
actors must freeze themselves in position. A third actor then walks up to these two and taps one of them on the shoulder. The tapped actor leaves the stage, and the new actor must take his or her place, in the same position, and then begin a completely different scene with his or her first line of dialogue, justifying body positions but interpreting them in a new way.
By the end of this exchange, Andrew and Ben have developed a reasonably complex drama. They know that Andrew is a bus driver, and that Ben is a potential passenger. Andrew is getting a little impatient, and Ben may be a little shifty, perhaps trying to sneak on. A transcript Example 1.1 The Beginning of a 2minute Scene at the Improv Institute 1
If actors are thinking about being funny, looking for a good oneliner, then they won’t be listening to the other actors and working on creating a believable scene together. Being funny is often egodriven, a way of competing with the other actors rather than trusting the group to create the humor. Improv teachers tell students to focus on the other principles of good improv, and what will result is an improvisation which is true to life and which thus has a more profound, natural humor.
Freeze Tag is perhaps the best known of all improv theater games. In Example 6.1, two actors come to the front of the stage, and one of them describes the rules of the game to the audience: EXAMPLE 6.1 Performance 5 Actors have just come on stage; all face audience in a line at stage rear. Audrey steps forward to address audience. Audrey Now, to start our show off tonight, we’re gonna play a little game called Freeze Tag.