Today I figured I’d try to apply some of the lessons I’ve learned from improv to written drama. I’m always better improvising than trying to write things down, because my internal critic is super-hard on me as soon as I put fingers to keys. So! I present a brief dramatic interlude, on the theme of At the Crossroads.
Annie: Here it is. This very spot.
Jake: It’s … bare. I thought there’d be a memorial. A bench. At least a plaque. Who doesn’t rate a plaque?
Annie: There was, for a while. Plants. Flowers. Growing things.
Jake: He would have liked that.
Annie: But they died. Someone pissed on the hibiscus.
Jake: And they couldn’t replant it?
Annie: There wasn’t any money. And the soil wasn’t right for it anyhow. Or so I hear.
Jake: I’d have thought you’d know about things like that.
Annie: I don’t know everything.
Jake: Or that you’d have come here before. At least to see it.
Annie: I can’t do everything.
Jake: I’m not asking for everything. I’m just saying, eleven years. You could have come before now.
Annie: I could have come? I could have come? Why should I come? You were driving that night.
Jake: So you’re saying it wasn’t your fault? It wasn’t your fault you were all over me, reaching for the wheel, laughing your damn head off, so drunk I could have lit your breath on fire? Fine! Don’t come. I won’t ask you to. I just thought – I thought we should do this together. It was our fault. We killed him. We killed him.
Annie: And I’m sober now! Sober nine years.
Jake: Two years too late.
Annie: Seven hundred and ninety-seven days too late. And six hours. And I couldn’t. Okay? I couldn’t come here alone. I couldn’t face going home to that empty apartment, looking in the mirror, counting those days again in my head. I’d take a drink or slit my throat, and I don’t know which would be worse.
Jake: You’re disgusting.
Annie: Oh, yes, I’m disgusting. You always were disgusted – that’s how you liked it. You couldn’t stand to see me happy. No, you wanted me in the gutter, shitting myself, puking down my front, so drunk I couldn’t stand. You don’t think I remember that? How you looked at me? How you’d always hand me that first drink? You’d wink and say, “Let’s have one for the road.”
Jake: And if I didn’t? You’re forgetting that part. If I didn’t give you a glass, you’d drink the bottle. If I hid the bottle, you’d blow our rent check at the liquor store.
Annie: And why didn’t you hide the rent check, then? Why didn’t you help me? Why did it have to go so far?
Jake: I tried, Annie. For god’s sake, I tried. I loved you, then.
Annie: And we see where trying’s got us. Someone else always pays the price for trying.
Jake: That’s not fair.
Annie: No, Jake. No, I guess it isn’t. But Evan’s dead, and that’s not fair either.
For those following along at home, the hardest part was coming up with two characters who had a definite relationship. I kept coming up with scenes of people introducing themselves, or being lost, or otherwise being immensely boring. I don’t usually have trouble with this in actual improv, so I wonder whether it’s a function of working on something alone. When I don’t have a real person to play off, my brain just wants to introduce me to the character the other half of my brain is portraying, and that ends up being seriously yawn-worthy.
On the other hand, I definitely noticed that every line added something to the consensual reality of the story - at least far more than my first drafts usually manage. So three cheers for learning something from improv!