Open Scene-Exercise

By | August 2, 2010




Can three players please join the stage to for an open scene.


An open scene is the basis of all improv comedy. In short the open scene is improv comedy. The hundreds of structures covered in Learn Improv are there to support the open scene. All performers should be training and assessing their skill set at the open scene. All bow to the open scene.

The Open Scene has two structures. There is the exercise Open Scene and the handle Open Scene. This structure is the exercise Open Scene. This is basically “how to do improv comedy.”

There are an infinite number of ways to do an open scene. Learn Improv will discus the most expected elements of an Open Scene. This is a very reductionist approach that expects an open scene to involve the audience, have characters and a narrative arc.

The First Offer

Connect with your audience to get an offer that informs the scene. The offer is the defining element of improvisational comedy theatre. This involves breaking the fourth wall and connecting with the audience. The audience becomes part of the show. The players are giving the audience what they want.

Any mechanism can be used to get the offer from the audience. Anyone can approach the audience with an Ask For. The Ask For is the question, the offer is the response. This makes the audience an collaborative member of the performance team. The Ask For can come from a host, leader, player, or performer. This is the first step in an open scene.

More Offers

The offer given by the audience is the first offer in a string of offers that create a narrative. The stories created in an improv scene happen by accident. The only way this can work is by having offers moving back and forth between players. The very first offer is from the audience to the players.

Every offer is a gift and an opportunity to let comedy happen and build a story. Every offer needs to be treated carefully. It is a good idea to have tools that players can use to treat each offer with care. There are many tools for working with offers. These tools should never be rules. These tools should be goals.

There are many tools for working with offers. Learn Improv uses LACE. Listen. Accept. Commit. Expand. If a scene is not building, not being funny, not being fun it will almost always be the result of failing to reach the goals in LACE. We often see scenes that have no narrative or characters what so ever. They are quirky wonderful moments. While great chunks of narrative can be dispensed with LACE can never be dispensed with.

The players must strive to LISTEN for the offer. When the offer is heard it must be ACCEPTED as real. The player will COMMIT to their offer. This offer will EXPAND upon the offer they heard.

Offers Spark Arcs

Offers are flying back and forth on and what should be done with them? Improv comedy is best when it is rooted in a story. A fancy word for story is narrative. Narratives are strongest when certain elements occur.

It is recommended that the story tellers have a narrative tool to work with. There are many narrative tools out there. These tools should never be rules. These tools should be goals.

Learn Improv uses the narrative tool STEPS. STEPS is an acronym for Setting. Ties. Exploring. Propulsing. Sorting. When we teach STEPS we often learn them in order. STEPS need not occur in order during a scene. STEPS is a narrative tool for the present player to look at see what may be missing from a narrative.

Scenes that culminate in a story are more likely to have the following. A SETTING that created and environment and mime objects. TIES between characters with real relationships. Something that is EXPLORED by the characters and connects them more deeply. The exploration is PROPELLED along making it different in some fashion. The characters that are involved in the propelled exploration will SORT things out, not nesessarily solve the exploration.


  • Handles – using an improv structure to overlay an open scene.
  • Black Out – killing a scene at the first gag or joke
  • Gagging – saying funny things instead of saying things funny
  • Deus Ex Endings – Machina, Medicina, Massacarina, etc


  • Scene From Nothing – Performers get on stage and start a scene without an offer.
  • Cold Start – Performers get on stage and start a scene without an offer
  • Short Form – one audience offer to one scene.
  • Long Form – one audience offer to many scenes.


  • Everyone everywhere living and dead.