Rob Schiffmann

On Tuesday afternoons, I often find myself with some free time before my evening rehearsal. Ideally, I fill this time by taking in a movie at one of my favorite NYC movie theaters. At the top of this list is the AMC theater on 68th Street and Broadway. It’s big, expansive, clean, and just the kind of place you want to go to see a good Hollywood movie. Some of my many wonderful movie memories at the 68th Street AMC include the time Al Pacino accidentally walked into me in my row during a very intense screening of The Revenant to all the various films I saw there with my Dad, who HAD to sit in the 3rd row center (or, as he said, it was simply not worth it to stay).         


This week, the only option that fit into my limited time slot was the latest in a classic horror franchise: Scream 6. I have not seen any of the Scream movies other than first one and my memory being what it is, I may as well have never seen that one either. All I remember is that people wore stretchy face masks, teenagers killed teenagers, and Courtney Cox looked human pre-plastic surgery. As such, I was concerned about being lost in what I correctly assumed would be a far too intricate plot, largely based on copious amounts of back story. I had hoped that the film makers were cognizant of the potential for new viewers, even this late in the franchise and that they would thus give us the essential tidbits we would need to be active parts of this intentionally horrific journey.

Oh hope, how fleeting a bird you are. We newbies were given NOTHING. Rather, we were left to fend for ourselves in the land of the gruesome and to simply settle for some brutal ultra violence that, while potentially somewhat justified with history, instead seemed almost sadistically common place in this, the Scream universe. And so, I sat, with my popcorn and diet Dr. Pepper, lost in a world I had not traversed since it’s infancy.

But then, much to my surprise, something began to change.

Although I had essentially been dropped in the middle of a story for which I had no context, I realized that this ignorance gave me the freedom to create MY OWN back story. And so I did. I found ways to justify the moves being made by the main players. When something would happen that didn’t fit my newly formed narrative, I could simply adjust that back story to make the new element fit.

There is a saying in improvisation that your character has no history other than the one created in the present. This implies that there is nothing that your character WOULD or WOULD NOT do. Since there is no pre-written history, whatever your character DOES is exactly what your character WOULD DO and some element of his/her history made it such that it’s present course is RIGHT on course.

When we look at the choices we may make on stage and in life, we may judge those choices to be out of the bounds of what we imagine we WOULD do. Remember, friend: you not only have the choice to write your own story, but you also have the ability and the option to choose what parts of your backstory you let dictate your present story. And when you let yourself begin to live that way, it really is a…(wait for it)…SCREAM!