“To surprise oneself means to learn something new, something strange, something unusual about oneself: something possible.”Augusto Boal, The Rainbow of Desire. Trans. Adrian Jackson. London: Routledge, 1995. p.141
A scenic Confession serves as the second element (alphabetically) of the CAD trinity that also includes accusation and discovery. Each of these techniques is an example of a revelation or tilt intended to add dynamism to a scene that might otherwise find itself limping in an increasingly uninteresting stasis. While an accusatory revelation places culpability on your scene partner, a successful confession puts the speaker in the proverbial hot seat, providing new information about their past deeds, hidden desires, or unspoken secrets.
After a long road-trip, married couple A and B approach the porch of A’s childhood house. It is late at night, and they stumble with the luggage from the car.
Player B: “That unexpected traffic clearly cost us some time. I didn’t think we’d get here this late.”
Player A: “It’s okay. I know you did your best, and I texted my folks to let them know we wouldn’t make dinner.”
Player B: (nervously as they struggle with a suitcase) “Well… we’re here.”
Player A: “Are you okay? You haven’t been yourself since we hit the road.”
Player B takes a deep breath…
Player B: “I’m not quite sure how to say this, but I got into a huge political argument with your father on the phone last week, and I called him some rather vulgar names…”
Crafting Your Confession
1.) Assume the role of the guilty or vulnerable party. The gift of a confession is that it upsets the balance of the speaker’s world (which, in turn, hopefully influences their onstage relationships and actions). It can be challenging when endowing backstory on another to find the balance between something that is provocative and also joyful for the recipient. With a confession, however, this challenge is markedly reduced as you have control over the tone and nature of the choice. To this end, make sure the power of the endowment truly lands on your own shoulders: it would be more accusatory, for example, to offer that A’s father made the vulgar comments rather than taking the risk that you were the offending party. A confession needn’t be negative, but it does offer the delightful opportunity to seize the role of the villain or miscreant.
2.) Give a confessional moment sufficient weight. As is the case with the other options in the CAD trinity, almost anything could be a confession if you make the moment rich with import and suspense. Player B could have forgotten a seemingly meaningless item at home, stepped in something on the sidewalk, or told a white lie about A’s cooking in the car. On some level the initial specific doesn’t matter so much as the way it is framed and presented – players have the opportunity to polish and deepen the significance of the choice as the scene continues to unfold. So, even if your idea is only partially formed, if your intent is to offer your choice as a confession it’s important to frame it as such. It may require that you emotionally preamble a little, or adjust your tone and staging. Just don’t needlessly undersell the choice, even if you’re aware it’ll need some additional help to shine. Ultimately, your character needs to deeply care: a seemingly lackluster confession can be extremely successful when delivered with sufficient oomph.
3.) Seek to make matters worse (or better) through timing or context. The effectiveness of an attempted confession can change considerably depending on the timing and context of its delivery. Had Player B confessed about the in-law argument hours before arriving at the home, the power of the choice would be diffused. Sharing this knowledge just moments before the front door swings open adds a whole new level of significance and drama. Endeavor to use any latent potentials of the present moment when crafting a confessional reveal. A confession is likely to burn less brightly if it focuses on characters or situations that are not actively involved in the current action (unless they are just about to enter). Instead, seek confessions that change the current onstage relationships, shed new light on pre-established facts, or utilize shelved details and offers as opposed to inventing completely new or disconnected scenic elements.
4.) Embrace the emotional risk of your choice. Effective scenic confessions tend to come with some sense of personal cost or risk. “I like the snow” could be polished into a dynamic choice but is innately less charged than “I’ve never liked your parents.” By definition, a confession is something that the character has elected to hide or obscure. It follows that there is an emotional toll when a character finally elects (or is forced) to share this inner turmoil. So let it land and gestate. Just as the recipient should elect to take some time for a gut check, make sure if you’re the speaker that you don’t scramble to explain away your choice in lieu of taking that extra breath and really feeling the emotional potency of your words.
Confessions are such a powerful weapon in your improv arsenal and can open up emotionally charged and dynamic doorways that will beautifully complicate your character and relationship work. Remember that they needn’t be negative or embarrassing in nature and can also serve as an excellent way to increase the love and connections between characters. Take a look at the accusation entry if you’d like additional general pointers on how to deliver and receive CADs effectively.
Connected Game: Inner Monosong