There’s an exercise we learned at BATS back in the day called CROW(E) – a way of thinking about narrative scenes and establishing a solid platform at the beginning of the scene (in order to tilt it later). CROWE stands for Character, Relationship, Objective, Where, (Emotion):
Character (something that makes the people onstage different from the actors that are portraying them)
Relationship (how are the people in the scene connected to each other?)
Objective (someone in the scene wants something)
Where (where does the scene take place; what does that place look like, etc.)
Emotion (someone in the scene feels something; this is considered optional)
Thinking about CROWE definitely grounds a scene and encourages the actors to make specific choices, giving them a base to expand on later in the scene.
When we were exploring scenework a few years later, in the early days of Un-Scripted, we tweaked CROWE a bit, changing it to PRAWN:
Protagonist (who is the scene about)
Relationship (what is the protagonist’s relationship to the other people in the scene)
Aim (same as objective; what does the Protagonist want to achieve?)
Where (see above; this helps pull the audience in to the world of the scene)
Nuance (something unnecessarily specific that an actor brings to the scene)
Not only is eating prawns a more appealing image than eating crow (unless you happen to be a vegan), the mnemonic got closer to the heart of what we were trying to get at in those Un-Scripted days. If you’re intending to improvise a 2-hour, single-story, long-form show, it *really* helps to be able to establish, from the get-go, who the story is about. Gets everyone on the same page and saves a LOT of time negotiating. Knowing what the protagonist wants basically tells us what the story is going to be about; either the protagonist gets what they want, or they don’t. Establishing relationships sets up characters who will help – or hinder – the protagonist along their way. The Where pulls the audience into the world that’s being created onstage. And the nuance? That’s where the fun comes in.