The first rule of improvisation is AGREE. Always agree and SAY YES. When you’re improvising, this means you are required to agree with whatever your partner has created. So if we’re improvising and I say, ‘Freeze, I have a gun,’ and you say, ‘That’s not a gun. It’s your finger. You’re pointing your finger at me,’ our improvised scene has ground to a halt. But if I say, ‘Freeze, I have a gun!’ and you say, ‘The gun I gave you for Christmas! You bastard!’ then we have started a scene because we have AGREED that my finger is in fact a Christmas gun.
― Tina Fey, Bossypants
I said, “I don’t think I can give you that kind of emotion.” And he [Hitchcock] sat there and said, “Ingrid, fake it!” Well, that was the best advice I’ve had in my whole life, because in all the years to come there were many directors who gave me what I thought were quite impossible instructions and many difficult things to do, and just when I was on the verge of starting to argue with them, I heard his voice coming to me through the air saying, “Ingrid, fake it!” It saved a lot of unpleasant situations and waste of time.
Well, anything that’s interesting in a film, or in a character –all your passion, your sex, your anger, your rage, all that– comes from that part of you that you want to hide and push away, and you want to deny all those things most. So if you can sort of visualize a version of your shadow… and if you sort of invite him or her to the party… and if you can really understand that this is where you’re going to let that shadow come out, this is where it’s home… It’s really just understanding that it’s your job to get vulnerable.
And most people have the exact opposite; most people go through life and they try all the time not to feel all those dark things. We have to go feel them, but it’s an opportunity too. I think to think of it that way, that just gets you into the flow and that unlocks your subconscious, so you get out of your head and into your heart. That’s what I do, I just try to remember that the part of you that’s going to do a good job is the part of you you want to most deny.
Jean Stapleton may be remembered as the dingy but long-suffering Edith Bunker, possessing a voice that could scratch glass in the rendition of Those Were the Days that opened the Archie Bunker Show. She embodied the character so perfectly that she became Edith in our minds, but she was much more. A brilliant woman who had her day in musical theater, she was good enough to fool all of us and stay true to herself. This is a very special tribute from Ninjanurse at Emancipation Conversation which deals not only with loss of Jean Stapleton, but the loss of Edith Bunker so many years ago. It makes me smile.