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Eight is NEVER Enough's Improv Study Guides

How to Improvise: PANTOMIME

Pantomime is the non-verbal communication and action in a scene. You may best understand pantomime by thinking of a MIME, or silent film performer. Mimes create entire works without words. Using their imagination, they endow air with shape and weight. The audience can see the cup, flower, furniture or other object the Mime sees. The trick to creating great pantomime is to further endow the imaginary object with mood and emotion. Seeing how the character feels and reacts to the object sells the illusion. In Improvisation, we create entire worlds using pantomime. I recommend taking a class in Mime techniques for every comedian and/or dramatic performer.

THE STOP Every pantomime should involve the action of THE STOP. As the player touches an imaginary object, the entire body stops and focuses on the object. In the moment, the body senses the weight and texture of the object. To fully sell the illusion, breathe in an emotion. Happy, sad, blah. All together there is a sense of LIFT.

THE AH-HA MOMENT Before touching the imaginary object, try seeing it first. Similarly, perform a STOP that says to the audience, “I see …” or “I hear” (something, someone). This is also known as a “TAKE”.

TALKING HEADS: Scenes without pantomime and action become “TALKING HEADS” two or more people just talking. This is rarely exciting. This usually comes form actors trying way to har to THINK of something to say. Keep and action going and the characters will do the work. AVOID scenes of TALKING HEADS.

EXERCISE 1) PICKING UP A FLOWER: Start standing neutral. STOP ONE – See the flower. STOP TWO – touch the flower with two fingers. STOP THREE – Pluck the flower by the stem from its roots. STOP FOUR – Smell the flower. Finish with a reaction (Ah that smells good OR uh-oh I have horrible allergies)

EXERCISE 2) PICKING UP A GLASS/CUP: Similar to the flower, see it, touch it, pick it up. But every cup/glass is different. Try picking up a coffee cup. Fast food soda. Fancy dinner goblet. Etc. See if you notice how you react to the type, size and weight of each cup.

EXERCISE 3) Build a room! One player enters a blank performance space. Performing a basic task, the player establish at least one piece of furniture defining the space. After 20-30 second the player exits the room. Player two enters the space, performing a new task and adding a new piece of furniture (or appliance etc). Player two has to honor best possible the location, size and quality of anything player one established (REMEMBER YES AND).

EXERCISE 4) PBS TALK SHOW – Think Charades. Two players perform interview scene. One is the author; the other a talk show host. A third player performs the sign language interpretation for the show. But this player does not know actual sign language. Rather he/she acts out the scene. Use big physical actions to represent people action etc.

FURTHER STUDY: Try handling real objects. Get a feel for how the weight makes the entire body adjust. How does the texture effect how you feel? Finally do you have any emotional connection to the object?

FROM THE PRO’s: Practice the infamous DOUBLE TAKE: See something. Turn away. Realize what you saw. Look again but this time bigger. BEWARE THE TRIPLE TAKE: Very dangerous and know to cause neck injury. LOL


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Articles and Improv Handbook by Walt Frasier . Mr Frasier has appeared on film, TV, Commercials and the Live theater and is currently the director of intruction for the COMEDY HALL OF FAME FOUNDATION. See Walt Frasier live in Times Square and touring nationwide in Improv Comedy Troupe EIGHT IS NEVER ENOUGH.
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No Questions. No Blocks

Pantomime

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List of Ask Fors

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