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|The Tao of Improv - Page 7|
While you don't want to hang back and never act, you also don't want to make the other improv mistake of always acting and never reacting and yielding. This is known as driving the scene, and actors who do this seem like control freaks. They dominate the action, don't listen, and do "yes . . . buts." While their ideas may be funny or interesting, the scene doesn't work because their overassertiveness ultimately undermines any possibility of success. The other actors feel dismissed and emotionally pummeled; they may go along as best they can, but don't care, because one person is pushing an agenda and ignoring everyone else. The scene quickly gets stilted and loses energy, so the audience gets irritated or bored. The action becomes a little too much like real life.
We all know in our clinical work how easily responsibility in relationships can get abandoned or distorted. Frank runs the show at home and in your office, and his wife Ellen never speaks up, always going along. Sue binge-drinks all weekend, and Eric calls up her boss on Mondays to tell him she has the flu. Brian and Teresa talk about dividing up household chores more equally, but never do it and only continue to complain.
Our job is to counter their inertia and fear to bring a little fresh air and spontaneity into their scenes. When clients begin to withdraw, we encourage them to take risks, to act differently, right here and now; to say what's on their minds and in their hearts. We ask the hard questions—"Do you think about suicide?" "Do you want a divorce?" "Do you worry that this is your fault?"—that, hopefully, nudge them to talk about the underlying pain, the undisclosed secret, the unremitting anxiety.