Review: The Triangle Of The Scene

A simple, practical, powerful method for approaching improvisation

Written in 2015 by Paul Vaillancourt

With over 30 years experience of teaching and performing improvised comedy all across America, Paul Vaillancourt has studied at Comedy Sports, Second City and iO as well as under the legendary Del Close. He is the co-founder of iO West and Revolution theatre where he works today.

The triangle of the scene is a 130 page practical guide to longform improv which is aimed at performers. It is accessible and easy to read, with clear explanations, exercises and even a link to watch videos of exercises being demonstrated. Following the disclosure from a student who felt they had left class with a ‘set of tools’ they could use again and again, the book is an attempt to document a concrete system of which can be consistently and universally reproduced. In this sense, some of the more free spirited readers might anticipate a very limiting and prescriptive set of rules, however trying it out feels more like finding an ‘instruction manual’ out of a box labelled ‘improv scenes’ and once the rules sink in they help to free your choices and not limit them. How much of a mess are you going to make without an instruction manual?

The book makes the ‘relationship based, game driven, 2 person scene’ its primary focus, and anyone who has seen a longform show before won’t be able to ignore the fact that scenes are where almost all of the time is spent. There is also the idea of the ‘big playable gift’ that helps characters establish a pattern of behaviour that they should use to influence their choices, no matter what. There are plenty of examples given of this predictable pattern of behaviour being used across other mediums. The exercises are described in terms of an ‘x-ray’ which is used to see inside of specific parts of the scene, which goes back to the underlying implication that the mind has a universal operating system. The triangle itself focuses on 3 simple things, ‘you, me and us’ which again are self-evidently the 3 things in every 2 person scene. There are some great exercises to help make strong, focused choices using each of the corners of the triangle, with examples of things to say in scenes that can fill in the gaps.  

Throughout the book it is clear that the author is very passionate about improv, and this passion has led to a deep understanding of the assembly instructions to successfully create relationship based, game driven, 2 person scenes, again and again. A great book for beginners who are keen to understand the mechanics and construction of 2 person scenes. Also, a great book for seasoned professionals who will see the logical steps taken by this veteran performer to formulate their approach.

Available to buy on Amazon:

Paul Vaillancourt also has a huge collection of ‘improv tips’ on youtube:

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