This will be a bit of a hodgepodge: I’m starting to understand, I think, how Game can coexist with Emotional Truth. So I’m happy.
These two are sources of comedy: Game is ‘the unusual thing’ which appears in a scene – for example, in Monty Python’s Argument Sketch the game is that someone is paid to argue with you; in Mitchell and Webb’s Cash Register sketch the game is that you can’t tell which cash register is real. Emotional Truth is what it is: people saying things that resonate with us make us laugh. The latter is much more about good acting and good rapport with the audience, and the former is much more about pattern recognition and good rapport with the rest of the troupe.
The two are not in opposition, but they are both difficult to do, and improv schools teach one or the other first. Today, for a brief moment, I was in a scene in a Harold rehearsal where these came together: I want to write it down now so I can think it over properly this week. I’ll only be writing down my actions because those are the actions I want to consider later – there was a lot more going on in the scene than what I describe below!
I was playing a laddermaker, a down-to-earth gruff man who enjoyed his work and liked his workmates. We learned my scene partner, another laddermaker, had a son he hadn’t known about, and we tagged a little to follow the son and the son’s mother and her romances. I thought of Lyndsay Hailley’s ‘protecting the present tense’ and tagged back in with the son back in the laddermaking yard, and told him frustratedly that I didn’t want to hear all these details about his mother’s sex life (so that the tags became the story told to me by the son). We tagged again and learned more about the son’s girlfriend, who then met the mother and slept with the father (upsetting the son) and again I tagged back in to the laddermaking yard and complained that I really didn’t want to hear all this stuff. That was swept, ending the scene.
So, there it is: my character’s Emotional Truth was that he was an uncomplicated ladder maker, and the Game was that his friend’s son kept bending his ear about mad relationship drama. No conflict between the concepts there.
I feel like this is not the full picture of how to play both Game and Emotional Truth as an improviser; each time I made a game move I was offstage (tagging in) and when I was onstage I could simply play the truth, so the two types of action were separated in time. But for me this is the first time a scene I’ve been in has definitely had both.
I love my team, Game Face; I can’t wait for us to be performing regularly together, because I think we’ve got something special.
(Another thing I’m proud of: I was drinking an imaginary cup of tea when I got tagged out in the above scene, and I forgot to put it down. On the sidelines, I then sipped my imaginary tea, panicked when I realised I shouldn’t be holding it any more, and put it down on the windowledge nearby. Object Permanence Level II.)
 I think we almost all cross-played in this scene – a rehearsal with one guy and four girls. Unusual for improv!