A few people have asked me about finding the game of a scene recently. I’m still searching for a good way to not only describe what it is, but also how to teach it. I’m getting there.
An overly vague definition is that a game is something that is set up and repeated and explored but which is not what the scene is about. Games can be found in any aspect of the scene. Often they come from within the character itself – a catchphrase is an example of a character game, but also from character interactions or interactions with the environment. They often stem from mistakes – a mispronunciation of a word, for example, that then gets carried on in the scene or show, building and evolving. I remember a show where a Dutch performer translated “fridge” into cool-cupboard, from then on any apparatus became named like this. The over was the hot-cupboard, etc. This is a game.
It’s not confusing or accidental that it’s called the game of the scene because the rules of most improv games, if spontaneously started in a scene could constitute a game of the scene. Games like stimulus-response (where something one character does causes another to react in a set way), sit-stand-lie or dubbing scenes are games that really show this principal. With these games, the rules of the game happen in parallel to the scene. They have some influence on the direction of the scene but they shouldn’t take over. I think this is a big insight into what I mean by the game of the scene. More very soon.
In the mean time, here’s an example of a game in the real world. Well, at least the “real world” of actors appearing on talk shows which is actually a lot closer to an improv scene than the real world. Paul Rudd's Late Night With Conan O’Brian Game.