Storytelling with salt, pepper and meaning - Structure of a story and recalling

This page is based on Feña Ortelli's workshop Improvised Dramaturgy. Feña showed me a third role of improvisers which I usually ignore: The one of the dramaturge narrating the story. Feña does improv because he loves the magic coming from the connection with other people. Some elements of this page are based on Noah Levin's workshop Pay attention. Noah gives you excellent feedback about your scenes.

Length: 3 hours
Punctuality: Due to the nature of the topic, every participant must do exercises to be in the moment, I recommend to close the door after 20 minutes.


We all want to fill our stories and scenes with meaning. But do you we understand that our acting and directing skills as improvisers aren't enough for this lovely task? The key is to be a dramaturge and furnish those stories with a structure, characters with deep experiences and conflicts. We will focus on that dramaturge in us and how he/she enriches our storytelling.

At the end you will aknowledge that as improviser you not only have to have acting and directing skills, but also narrrative ones. You will build with confidence simple stores with complex characters and wnjoy the creation of those characters as much as setting the plot.

The key skills to learn are:

  • Three roles of an improviser
  • Importance of the dramaturge
  • Basic structure of a story
  • Building characters with experiences
  • Developing the plot, finding a triggering event and resolutions
  • Bring back elements from your characters and stories, reincorporate them.
  • Find and reuse patterns of behaviour in your scenes

Promotional text

Inviting them to your home Saturday's workshop

To transport our audience to imaginary places, we have to describe slowly and with details our location. We have to submerge them in the *normality* where our story starts.

Let's explore tomorrow how to establish a location, our characters and how to be the dramaturge builds up the story behind the scenes. We will also enrich our scenes recalling previous objects, actions and locations.

At the end, we will try the long-form game Lugares.

Sign up here: FIXME Add link to meetup

See you there!


  • Ask the students to explain their expectations before starting the workshop. This helps you understand what they are looking for
  • Ask for feedback after each games to see if the students grasp the goals of them
  • A short break of 5 minutes after 90 minutes gives smokers the opportunity to go outside and reloads the energy of the group

Punctuality Gift (Group ritual, not part of the workshop's topic)

Being in the moment

This goal of this game is that students get into the mood of thinking more about others than themselves.

Not be afraid of making mistakes

  • Super Brain: Divide the group in groups of four players. One player must answer different questions while mirroring the player in front of him. The player on his right has him simple math questions, while the player on his left ask him personal questions.

Structure of a story

  • Tell a simple story (game): 3 players tell a story. The first on gives an introduction describing a nomal day and a character. The second one introduces a problem or conflict. And the last player resolves the conflict and the plot goes back to normality
    • On the second round the players focus on making the characters more complex keeping the plot simple

A story has:

  • An introduction where characters and relationships are described
  • A triggering event which changes the normality
  • A description of how our characters are affected by the triggering even
  • One or many resolutions of the conflict(s)

“With more information and more details (in the introduction), more path may open”, explained Feña Ortelli

Your multiple roles as an improviser

When we are on stage, we represent characters and interact with other players inside the scene (actor role) and we all determine when to start or stop scenes and when to leave or enter the stage (director role). To feel our stories with meaning we need to lay out a basic structure for the story, with its characters, normality, triggering events and work on the conflicts between the roles (dramaturge role). This last role is often ignore leading to difficulties to tell stories. When we tell a story we liked we don't know what we did right because I are unaware of the importance of dramaturgie1).

Recalling warm-up

  • Sorry I’m late: All the players are in a circle. The player who goes to the center start telling a story about why he was late. He/She takes the story from a movie that the other players have to guess. Who guess comes to the center. This learns that recalling things is enjoyable.
  • Makes Me Think Of (Creator: Omar Galvan): One person steps into circle and mimes an activity or object. Until a second player associate it physically or verbally and connect it to another idea. After a while a third player finds a new activitity related with the last one. Example: A yo-yo makes me think of dribbling a basketball, basketball makes me think of petting a cat. Players are encouraged to revisit activities that have come up previously and find new connections. If possible, end the exercise on the activity you started with.

Don't rush to the conflict!

We usually rush to the triggering event and to the end of the story. Only if we stay in the story we can fill it with meaning!

  • Tell a story describing CROW2)) (game). Many players tell a story one sentence at a time with two characters. They can't use actions.
    • This will be the ingredients of our plot
    • Play the two characters of our story. Introduce everyday scenes, no conflicts, no triggering event
    • Listen for dropped elements and reincorporate them

Triggering events and conflicts

There are three types of conflicts:

  • Exterior: A natural force, an event coming from the enviroment affects the characters of the story
  • Relationship related: Between characters of the story
  • Internal: Between the characters and themselves

These conflicts open the plot possibilities. After the triggering event, we have to expose the conflicts present in the story.

    • Expose the conflicts present on the introduction from the last game
    • “Fortunately” will show “help”, while “unfortunately” will introduce obstacules
    • Don't overload the story with conflicts
  • Play conflict scenes: 2-3 players scenes showing the conflicts of the last game. New characters may be introduced

Closing slowly

Remember to close every conflict if it is possible. Don't expect to have an answer for every problem: Some things won't be fixed.

Go back to normality: The last scene must show the normality of the introduction.

  • Play resolution scenes: 2-3 players scenes resolving the conflicts of the last game. The last scene goes back to normality.

Take some minutes as a group to think if there was a methaphoric meaning behind the plot. Once you understood the mechanics. You can repeat all games with new characters and conflicts.

Reincorporation and Callbacks

  • Speed Harold: Play scenes of three stories out of suggestions of the audience. First round contains the first scene of each story. The second round has one scene of each story. As third round do flashbacks with extremely short scenes.
  • If this is true, what else is true?: Two players play a scene. Then the group looks for the elements that can be brought back in later scenes. Afterwards two other players play a new scene with elements of the last ones.

Games to play if there is enough time

  • 2-3 players with a talking stick: During the scene one player, holding a pen, can talk or mandate silence for everyone. When doing it online, all players have a pen nearby and the one holding it in front of the camera can talking or just wait (this generates silence)
    • There is not need to be polite: The time holding the pen can be divided unequally between the players
  • Ding/New offer/New choice: Two players are playing a scene with a place and a relationship. Then the moderators makes an applause the last sentence has to be changed: “I don't like this place” for “This place is wonderful”. It may be the opposite or something completely different LOL

LOL The group enjoyed these games

Some improv teachers may distinct between playwriting and storyteller. The last one translates the story into dialogues. I don't see any advantage on separating these roles
Character, relationship, object and where(place


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