The Thing or The Idea of the Thing

In improv class this week we talked about when you're using a prop in performance you need to be conscious of how you are using it. The question, or idea, is, "are you performing with the thing, or the idea of the thing?" This is one of those abstract questions, but I think an important one for creative performing artists. Let's take a suitcase (as we did in class). Are you dancing with that specific suitcase, or with the idea of dancing with a suitcase, or are you using it as a metaphor for traveling? I think the point is, and one I agree with, that while the suitcase might be a metaphor, it also needs to be that suitcase, not an idea of a suitcase. You need to recognize that the suitcase you have is brown with two straps and a handle and it's got some scratches on it and the lock doesn't work anymore and part of the fabric inside is slightly ripped. These details are important. If you get too far away from the actual suitcase you're using it looses it's power, or interest. Engaging the thing as it is brings its uniqueness to the forefront and then the audience can find a relationship to it. If you are dancing with an idea of a suitcase (even though you are holding an actual suitcase) than it becomes one more empty prop. The hard part, of course, is to recognize when you're engaging the idea of the thing and not the thing.

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