“A game is life in miniature. The play group is society epitomized. When the child attempts to take more than his share of ‘turns,’ the protest is immediate and expressed in terms he understands. When he makes a poor choice of conduct the group reaction and the consequences are immediate and definite.”Neva Leona Boyd, Play and Game Theory in Group Work: A Collection of Papers. Chicago: University of Illinois at Chicago Circle, 1971. p.43
Amongst the many critical communication issues inherently involved in the craft of improvisational theatre stands the necessity of elegantly Sharing Focus. Without a definitive text, carefully etched and repeated blocking (staging) or an outside eye polishing movement patterns and stage pictures, the improviser assumes a lot of responsibilities when it comes to crafting effective focus maneuvers. This is such a multi-faceted and rich issue that I’ve addressed it from multiple vantage points across this blog series.
Tools, Tips and Traps When it Comes to Sharing Focus
1.) Moving focus in group scenes. For a consideration of some best practices for clean focus shifts in those all-too-challenging ensemble scenes, explore Commandment #2 here, “Thou shalt always retain focus.”
2.) Shining the focus on shining. Commandment #3 in my “Ten Commandments of Theatresports” series (here) examines the nuances of shining, exploring when a scene or company may be best served by giving others the focus needed to excel.
3.) Focusing on stage pictures. The titular entry on Focus here looks at commonsense approaches for consciously constructing stage pictures that effectively and aesthetically direct the audience’s gaze and interest.
4.) Ways to give focus. “G” is for “Give” here examines time-tested methods for moving attention towards others on stage.
5.) Ways to take focus. “T” is for “Take” here explores the complementary improvisational skill of taking focus.
6.) When focus goes awry. Split focus refers to the failure to share focus onstage effectively. Explore some exceptions to this unhelpful improv habit in this entry of the same name.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how inspired our work is as improvisers if we present it in such a way that our audience cannot easily digest our choices free from unnecessary or careless clutter and confusion. In theory, the two most helpful tools to prevent such chaos are all variants of focus gives and takes. In practice, finding comfort and fluency with thiese techniques and applying them skillfully to the wide array of challenging situations that frequently emerge on the improv stage requires patience, dedication and vigilance.
Connected Game: The Café