This week I’ve been looking at the concept of being changed in our scene work. I mentioned this exercise briefly in my earlier blog here. I first encountered it during my training in New Zealand, and it’s a standard in Keith Johnstone’s Impro if memory serves. The exercise is called It’s Tuesday.
Players work in pairs. Player A provides a simple or nonchalant statement, such as “It’s Tuesday.” Player B, in turn, must have an intense emotional reaction to this news, and justify this strong point of view in a brief monologue.
Player A: “It’s Tuesday.”
Player B: (with growing excitement) “It’s Tuesday? I had totally forgotten the day. I can’t believe that I’d nearly forgotten my spouse is finally getting home today. It’s been four months, and I’ve missed her so much. I can’t wait to finally hold her in my arms again, and tell her everything that she’s missed. I just love her so much…”
This is an exercise that has a lot of gifts to offer depending on the way in which you frame and use it. Here, it supports this notion that we should be changed by our partner’s gifts and that, in fact, even a seemingly simple gift can be profound if we treat it as such. It also encourages providing emotionally brave and supported choices, and encourages players to leap to a dynamic choice and then justify it.
I know of two versions of this game although I’m sure there are more. The first is discrete, in which each initiating offer results in a self contained monologue. Once it is complete, the player who has just finished this emotional journey resets and offers their partner a new unrelated “bland” statement, such as “It’s raining outside”.
The second variation is continuous, where the tagline or end of the monologue (ideally, similarly “bland”) serves as the inspiration for the second player to launch into their own rant. From the example above, a tag line of “I just love her so much,” might result in Player B declaring with shock, “You love her so much! You promised me that you were going to leave her! Have you been just stringing me along this whole time…” In this second variant, you get a series of connected monologues with an emotional roller coaster kind of feel.
Traps and Tips
1.) Leap then justify. It can be tempting to internalize our initial reaction as we seek a “viable” emotional reaction and reason, but the exercise is more dangerous and fulfilling if you just trust your instinct and jump to an emotional reaction, and then fill in all the nuances and details as the monologue unfolds.
2.) Embrace the bland. It’s likely that players may stumble into really interesting initiations but this diminishes the risk of the game in many ways. “You just hit my dog with your car” has a more obvious and built-in punch than “That’s a nice sweater”. The latter puts the work on the receiver, and the more mundane the first offer seems, the less constrained the second player is and the greater the potential array of responses.
3.) Deepen your emotional storehouse. When you first encounter this game it’s not uncommon for emotional reactions to be rather simplistic: “I was mad in that last one, I’m going to try to be happy in this next one”. This is certainly a fine place to start, but if you’re circling back to the exercise, really try to invest nuance and complexity into your first reaction. Pride, remorse, suspicion and other similarly complex emotions and states of being are likely to unlock new story and character potentials.
4.) Explore your range. Emotions can be played in thousands of ways. Don’t settle at the most loud or obvious version of an emotion and just stay there. Explore the ebbs and flow, the subtleties and idiosyncrasies. This will also likely open up more avenues of discovery for your justification monologue rather than just leaning back into one static emotional approximation. It’s also fine (and great) for your initial emotional choice to have completely morphed into something else organically by the end of the vignette. In this particular use of the game the focus is on being changed and not necessarily staying in one emotional energy exclusively.
5.) Use you whole self. This exercise has a tendency to become a little talking heads (or perhaps yelling heads) so make sure you’re using all your gifts as an improviser and performer to give the scene truth, size and connection. Adding detailed location and activity into the mix can add another nice layer, as can changing up the central relationship or character traits.
“It’s Tuesday” is such a great reminder that any choice can shine if we lend our flashlight to it. We can sit in a scene “waiting for something dynamic to happen” all the while missing that we have the power to make almost anything dynamic if we so chose to. If your scene is stagnating this is a pro-active way to get some heat onto the stage: respond as if you heard “It’s Tuesday,” be changed, and connect to a new emotional truth or point of view.
Connected Concept: Commandment #5