COFFEE & CIGARETTES LIVE ACTION ROLEPLAY
inspired by the film by Jim Jarmusch
This game is for two players and a director.
Each player chooses a famous person to portray. A musician, actor, artist, writer, etc. They are meeting somewhere for some purpose. Coffee (and/or tea, if the characters are English) and cigarettes will be involved.
Players: between the two of you, decide why this meeting is taking place. Did one of you invite the other? For what purpose? Is that purpose concealed, to be revealed during the scene? Or is it a chance encounter?
Director: set the scene. Describe what the meeting place is like. Do you open the scene on one person waiting for the other? If so, who arrives first? Or do you open the scene with both characters already there?
The scene is played in real time, and is live action: everything you do, your character does; everything you say, your character says.
Players: the scene is not about coffee and cigarettes. It is not about the purpose of the meeting. It is about the relationship between your characters. Especially, it is about establishing and vying for status. You must introduce a conflict over status, and develop it through the scene, and finally come to some manner of resolution. Try offending the other person without being overtly offensive, and/or try taking offense when obviously none was meant, and/or try putting the other person off-balance with something unexpected. Use the coffee and cigarettes, your purpose of meeting, and your mutual celebrity as contact points for creating and developing the conflict.
Director: it is your job to keep the players on their toes and maintain the quality of the scene if things get out of hand. Anytime things seem to be flagging, or when the moment seems ripe, throw in a twist. Here are things you can do:
If you feel a player’s line could have been better than the one he said, you may call out “change!” The player must now say a different line. The line that was changed is treated as if it was never said; it will be cut out during editing.
Cut! Take it from…
If things are led to a dead-end or something otherwise dissatisfying, you may say “cut!” and direct the players to resume the scene from a specified previous line.
Introduce a minor character
Assume the role of a minor character and walk onto the scene. Like the players, you act your part live and in real time. Examples of this from the movie include the waiters in various scenes, Vinny Vella’s son, and the girl who gets Steve Coogan’s autograph (and fails to recognize Fred Molina). You can also try this off-stage as a phone call, like the one that Molina gets from Spike Jonzze.
Bird in the ear
You can direct the players to pause in the scene, then go whisper some information into one of the players’ ear. Whatever you tell him, the player should treat is as fact. Don’t worry that the other player didn’t hear it; this imbalance of information is precisely the intended effect.
You can interject occurrences into the scene. Simply call out what happens, and let the players react to it as they will. Sound effects are very good as well.
Director: you will also call the end of the scene.