The Botox Game
The BOTOX Game
A couple of weeks ago in Stuttgart, Germany, I was teaching a class with IMPRO STUTTGART with Kati, Steph, Kerstin,and Steve.
With smaller ensembles, I like to have the group develop specific exercises based on individual needs of company members. It’s a reminder of being kids again when we’d make up games with each other and alter the rules until it was the game we all wanted to play for weeks to come or until we came up with a new favourite game.
During our process we looked at the strength and struggles of each player, send them out of the room, and then discuss what sort of game would benefit the thing they were working on. Finally we invite them back in to play THEIR GAME.
We weren’t necessarily looking for a perfectly tuned, finished exercise that solved all the problems. It’s more about taking preliminary shots at the issues we were aiming at.
Kati’s game was called the BOTOX Game.
The group pointed out that one of Kati’s strength is her expressiveness which animates scenes and character.
While our strengths elevate us, we know that those strengths also hold hints of limitations that we can work on to improve our performance.
The quality that the group aimed at for Kati’s development was over-expressive reactions which sometimes spilled into caricature. The game that was developed was a fun character exercise called…
GAME: THE BOTOX GAME
ORIGIN: Impro Stuttgart, and Shawn
BENEFITS: Character, Control of Expression and OVER reaction, Concentration, Fun
SIDE BENEFIT: Partner’s in the scene are working the muscles of trying to alter their partner emotions in a scene.
# PEOPLE: in Scenes with 2 – 3 people
GOAL: Maintain control of expression in a scene without losing focus
PROCEDURE: In the 1st variation, one person uses as few muscles in their face as possible, as if their whole face has been injected with muscle numbing BOTOX. (additionally you can tell them that their mouth reacts as if it has been numbed by dental freezing, further removing the ability to express). They don’t make reference to the complete lack of expression. This is just who the character is.
Their partner acts as they normally would but is encouraged to move the scene into areas that would cause their partner to react emotionally.*
- – In one version of the game, If the person laughs, someone replaces them in the scene. In another version, a nearby “enforcer” will hit them with a balloon or soft foam pool noodle if they smile or over express. (Get permission and never hit around the face if you are trying this variation.).
- – Both people in the scene are playing the BOTOX Game and each one can be replaced if they smile or make a stronger facial reactions. (Remember to keep pushing the scene and your partner into being altered by the information in the scene)
- – Less as a game and more as a character technique try going on stage sometime and try different levels of face freezing. Level one Botox wouldn’t be seen by the audience but you might have some sense of minimizing your usual expressions. Level Ten Botox would be a complete deadening of all expression (and probably not so useful for a believable character)
IMPORTANT: * It’s important to remember, the person controlling their expression isn’t without emotions. They feel anger, sadness, horror and joy. They just don’t show it on their face (even though they think they are expressing as much as anyone else). Their face becomes a minimizing mask.
And remember, we aren’t looking to remove expression in all of our work. Expression and reaction is good for scene work. Strong reaction and authentic expression are very important. The Botox game is just a way to look at playing with our expression when we find we are doing too much, too often and without justified reason.
Have fun and explore what you can do with these ideas.