Improv skills lead to success

Significant Objects and Events

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I have one more post to go in my listening series but I had to tell you about the book Significant Objects, just published by Fantagraphics. The idea behind the project was to sell 100 mudane items such as ashtrays and gold-colored rabbit candles on eBay. The twist was that the item description was actually a short-short fiction piece by professional writers such as Meg Cabot, William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, and Scarlett Thomas.

So how much value did the stories, which were clearly labeled as fiction, add to the items? The items cost an average of $1.25 to acquire and sold for a total of nearly $8,000. That’s a profit of about $7,875, or over 6,000 times acquisition cost.

When I was young, I heard a story about an auction where the auctioneer was having a hard time getting anyone to bid on a guitar. One of his assistants picked up the guitar and played a beautiful song, causing the price to go through the roof when the bidders realized the object’s potential. That story is probably apocryphal, but the lesson remains: you make something significant by how you relate to it, whether by making music or writing a story about it.

As improvisers, we use our audience members’ suggestions to create our work. We have a duty to them to make their contributions significant by honoring what they gave us, especially if we’re replaying their day or referring to an important event in their life. Remember also that we can do harm. It’s one thing to show how a person’s day could go wrong, but it’s another to dismiss what they’ve said or done.

Keep your audience’s needs at the forefront of everything you do. After all, they’re the most important group in the theatre.

Written by curtisfrye

July 22, 2012 at 1:27 am

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