How to Engage Anyone

She said "Yes And!"

She said “Yes And!”

One year ago today, I asked the woman of my dreams to marry me. She gave me the ultimate “Yes and” by agreeing, and instantly setting the wheels in motion for our wedding, which is coming up in about a month.

Proposing marriage is a big deal; a memory you and your fiancée will share for a lifetime. Why shouldn’t our improv scenes be every bit as memorable? Or, at least memorable enough to have the audience talking on their car rides home after the show.

So here are some marriage proposal tips that can be applied to your improv scenes. Make your scenes engaging. (Word play!)

Don’t Propose Too Early In the Relationship

Now, this is something I could never be accused of doing. My fiancée and I were together for almost 6 years before I had the wherewithal to propose.  That being said, when you are in the initial stages of puppy love, it can be tempting to declare your love and your intentions as soon as possible.

If he’s bringing out the ring after your third date, that’s a red flag, ladies! What’s his hurry? Maybe he is under indictment, or needs a green card.

Don’t try to force things along with your improv scene partner either. Give your characters’ relationship room to grow. If you start off a scene by saying, “Well, partner, this is the bloodiest crime scene I’ve come across in all my years walking this beat. Clearly, this was done by somebody who knew how to use a chainsaw. It was probably that shifty-eyed tree surgeon with the chip on his shoulder,” then you’ve already taken the scene pretty much as far as it can go. You have no room for discovery! If you start that same scene off by saying, “Well, partner, this is the bloodiest crime scene we’ve ever worked,” then you and your scene partner have an opportunity to build a story arc that will satisfy the audience, by revealing new information by and by.

Get Permission

Gone are the days when marriage proposal started and ended with a negotiation. Securing a dowry of land, wool, and fertilizer from your future father-in-law is no longer necessary.  Though, it is both thoughtful and respectful to get her parents’ blessing before popping the question, so that everybody’s on the same page.

Give your improv scene partner the same respect you give your in-laws! Get connected with them. Get on the same page. You build your scene brick by brick, line by line. Do so in a logical way that inspires your partner. Don’t try to throw them off with wild tangents or offers that they can’t possibly be expecting.

That galloping sound you hear is, in fact, a horse; not a half-zebra/half-machine cyborg from an alternate timeline.

Getting and giving implicit permission from/to your scene partner to expand the “universe” or “reality” of a scene starts and ends with trust.

Make it Personal

Sure, setting the stage for your proposal can be as easy as making a quick stop at Jared, then getting a reservation at The Olive Garden.  But unless “endless salad and breadsticks” have a special meaning for you and your lady, you should probably work a little harder.

Choose a location for your proposal that has special meaning for you both. Be creative and be specific.

In your improv scenes also, be creative and specific. A scene where you are “waiting in line” is one thing. A scene where you “have been waiting in line for 4 days in front of the Apple Store at Lenox Mall with your best friend, Joel, eagerly anticipating the release of the iPhone 3G… in 2008” is something else entirely. Being specific with what you are doing, where you are, when you are doing it and who you are doing it with, offers your audience touchstones that they can identify with. These specifics make your scene more enjoyable and more memorable.

– John Mangan


Yes, and...

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