The only interesting talking heads are ones in jars. So, unless you plan to surround your head with glass (not advisable!) on stage, you should learn to add elements that will make your scenes more enticing to audiences, scene partners, and yourself. Those elements are found in space work (a.k.a., object work), and Dallas Comedy House teacher and performer Ben Pfeiffer plans to help you build those skills in an upcoming workshop. To learn more about space work, I sat down with Ben at Internet headquarters.
Jason Hensel: Why is space work important in scenes?
Ben Pfeiffer: I think space work is under-utilized and is a powerful tool if used with purpose. Space work makes your environment and characters believable. I try to use the environment to show my characters traits or point of view and help my scene partner show theirs as well. So, instead of randomly doing space work to fill up a stage, we should create items in our environment to show our characters' traits and that helps strengthen our scene.
For example, if my partner and I discovered we were cool kids in middle school in a scene, perhaps I could pull out a pack of cigarettes and start smoking to show I was cool because I was smoking underage. Also, while doing that I could label we are in the teacher’s lounge to establish not only where we are, but solidifying we are cool kids who don’t respect authority/boundaries.
JH: Why do you think space work is often forgotten about during scenes?
BP: In terms of space work, I think improvisers forget what has been already established by walking through an object on stage that was created. Or, they forget to do space work entirely and just stand in the middle of the stage talking. There is a lot to think about while improvising, so space work is often not utilized in a show because our brains are trying to remember the fundamentals.
JH: Every performer has a go-to space work move (e.g., opening a cabinet or fridge door). What is your go-to move?
BP: Juice box. Always Capri Sun brand.
JH: If someone isn't able to attend the workshop because of time or because it's sold out, what are some ways to practice space work on your own?
BP: If the workshop is sold out, we might open another workshop sometime in January. But, I'm unsure at this point. Improv is a group/partner dynamic, so it is often hard to practice on your own because it is not a one-person show. However, space work is one element that you can do by yourself. I would take notice on how you do basic things (e.g., brush teeth, etc.) or watch how people do things (e.g., drink coffee, etc.) and store it away in the memory bank or practice what you saw at home in the mirror.
Spacework! w/ Ben Pfeiffer is on Saturday, December 19, 11 a.m-2 p.m. Register now!