Hi Kirk. Long time reader, first time writer. Question about something that happened to me in a scene just yesterday. I was shot. In the face. But I didn’t realize what was happening and didn’t react as one should to a point blank gun shot to their mug. Everything from then on became about how I was shot in the face and nothing happened. It derailed the rest of the set, not to mention I got totally in my head and felt crappy about screwing up. What is one to do in such a situation?
Well, you didn’t screw up, first of all.
You did what I’d recommend in a situation like this: do the best you can with the knowledge you’re given.
You didn’t know you were shot, so you lived. It happens. Maybe the gun misfired, or it was firing blanks. Maybe they missed. Maybe you’re invulnerable! Maybe you have time for one last line (“Your shirt…”) before dying.
And even then, it’s OK if the scene derails… as long as the group’s having fun with the newfound information, and not letting it tangle up the show.
Information and surprises and accidents happen in improv. We sometimes can’t control what happens, But we CAN control how we react to those surprises, and it’s kind of a mental tweak to decide “I’m gonna play with it in this fun way” to turn an accident into one of those happy ones.