Fountain

This improv game is a way to work on "long form" improv in a fairly short form way. It was inspired (and therefore titled) by the Jackson Browne song Fountain of Sorrow. The relevant excerpt follows:

Looking through some photographs I found inside a drawer
I was taken by a photograph of you
There were one or two I know that you would have liked a little more
But they didn't show your spirit quite as true

You were turning 'round to see who was behind you
And I took your childish laughter by surprise
And at the moment that my camera happened to find you
There was just a trace of sorrow in your eyes


In the song, the singer finds an old photograph that brings back some memories. In the game, one person successively finds 3 pictures, paintings, or objects that remind them of some time in life.

How To Play

You initially need one person to volunteer. That person will be the narrator for the scene. The person then establishes some space (perhaps an attic, a closet, a barn-loft, etc.) that would contain something like pictures that can bring back memories. This should be done largely silently as the person is alone and should take a maximum of 30 seconds.

During the course of traversing the space, the narrator goes off to down-stage on one side of the stage and finds a picture, painting, or other object (start off with only pictures). Then, she has a moment to react to the picture, sits down in a chair, and starts describing it (if it is an object, she needs to describe a scene when the object is significant).

Other improvisers take the stage to create the still-frame of the picture the narrator is describing (improvisers can also become objects). After the narrator is finished, one additional actor goes up to be the person taking the picture. Then, the actors on-stage come to life and briefly relive the scene, starting at the still-frame. This reliving should probably not have any kind of forced conclusion or conflict/resolution. The key is to capture the moment and why it is significant to the narrator character. After the scene has concluded (a maximum of two minutes), the focus goes back to the narrator and the other improvisers fade out of the scene.

The narrator may have some final comments on the first picture. Then, the narrator finds a second picture/object and the same thing happens. This is repeated one last time for a total of three times. The scene is over. The pictures do not necessarily form a coherent story, though this can sometimes happen. They could just be completely unrelated, showing different aspects of the narrator person. They could also just share a recurring theme, such as chances missed.

Some principles

Part of what makes long form work is that the trajectories are fairly linear. You need to accept and contribute. Fundamentally, think of the words "Yes, And..." Accept what the other person contributes. Then, add to it. In many short forms, conflict comes up too much. In long form, the conflict should become obvious and slow developing, rather than fast and furious.