The third wheel
Recently I’ve side-coached in Dr. Aree’s Sceneworks by placing a silent third person midway through the scene, to do nothing but just to sit there. I felt it was needed, but I’ve never really thought why.
- SCENE 1: Two Witches (+ Interviewer).
Two excited witches, Witch V and Witch M, were excited to get into a witching school and are waiting for their application interview. We played the scene twice:
- The 1st time, Witch M took the interview alone.
- The 2nd time, BOTH witches were interviewed together. A third character was brought in as the interviewer, but doing nothing. But now Witch V and Witch M are cheering for each other. Finally, finding out that there was only space for one witch, Witch V and Witch M decided to team up and cast a hex on the interviewer, allowing BOTH of them to win.
- SCENE 2: Father + Mother (+ Daughter).
A Mother and Awkward Father were preparing to explain the birds and the bees to their teen daughter. Awkward Father was visibly embarrassed, while the Mother took joy in her spouse’s awkwardness. The third character Daughter was brought in, who only sat there to listen to the Father stumbling the explanations. What’s more, every time the Father tried to be vague, the Mother would chuckle and prod him, “How?” and the dynamics between the parents were at full display.
These two scenes have a different nature — one is closer to being peas in a pod, and the other is contrasting personality. Yet it’s funny that even though the focus of the two scenes is squarely on the two original players, their dynamics becomes highlighted by the mere presence of a third player.
I think the reason is… it makes it clearer that you are on the same team. When there are only two of you, you look for differences. When there is a third person, you look for similarities. You look for an ally instead of looking for an opponent.
This is like expatriates in a far away foreign land. When I was still in Indonesia, we contrasted the differences between Indonesians and our neighbor Malaysians. Culture-wise, etc. We are precious about our food, that our Rendang beef in coconut curry is strictly Indonesian and not Malaysian.
But if we are displaced in another land far away, we become friends. We look for ways to connect. An Indonesian and a Malaysian walk into a bar in Russia.. they trade Rendang recipes :)
It’s a recurring theme on On Cloud Nine blog about being on the same team.
- If you’re in shop, be Shopkeeper & Shopkeeper, like in Clerks (read: Be on the same side of the counter.)
- If you start as enemies, still have a mutual respect like DeNiro and Pacino in Heat (read: Like each other).
These are just simple tricks to make life easier in most scenes.
But sometimes a literal third wheel helps both of you remember that you are going the same direction.