Face Out to Look In
Rob Schiffmann

In rehearsal the other night, I was working with several actors who were improvising scenes and songs. As they began singing, they were often actively putting their eye contact on their fellow performers who were on stage in a support role. This is common and even I have found myself looking for that onstage support at times, particularly as I moved into ‘uncomfortable areas’.

​When they did this, which seemed to come from a need for safety, they lost their sense of melody, they stopped moving and they became more connected to intellect than to their true internal compass. When I had them face out and sing into the void, they suddenly reconnected to themselves and their music and presence woke up and they became melodic, emotional and vibrant.

Why would it be that true safety comes from singing to the void rather than to the people who are there to support us? I would posit that it is because when we stare out into the void, we have no one to connect to but ourselves and thus, we do just that. When we stare at another person to find safety, we cannot help but actually, on some level, be looking for validation. Inherent in that is the temptation to edit. As we know, safety is exactly what you do NOT want as an improviser and, dare I say, as an artist in general.

So… face out so that you may look in!