The value of improvisation for students and professionals.
Improvisational theatre is the term given to on-stage storytelling without a script. Actors will create a story in the moment from impulse and some small stimulus: a word, a prop, a genre. The story can go anywhere at anytime. Nothing is set in stone. Nothing is sacred. The fluid nature of improv theatre and classes, is exhilarating. For character and script bound actors, it can be incredibly freeing.
On the other hand, some actors feel like improv is acting for kids, and serves no purpose for professionals. I think there is some truth to that, some improv classes I have taken were more babysitting than anything else. That being said, I still think improv is valuable for both students and professionals. Here’s why.
You can’t stuff it up.
The best thing about improv is that you can’t stuff it up. Well, you can, but that means you’re doing it right! Fear of failure is everywhere in this industry and improv gives you a chance to forget about it for a while. Throw out your insecurities and jump into a scene.
It takes literally no planning.
Reading the play, learning your lines, and rehearsing for 4-6 weeks before going on can be exhausting; especially if you are at school or work a day job. Improv classes are a great way to indulge your inner actor without any prep. Good acting is about reacting, and so is good improv.
You can’t not be in the moment.
Actors are always trying to be “in the moment”. When you are improvising a story it’s impossible to be anywhere else. Even if you zone out, that’s part of the story, so you’re still in the moment. It’s great!
Anything could happen.
In my opinion this the most important lesson to learn from improv: anything can happen. As actors, it’s easy to fall into a routine of repeating performance. You’ve read/performed the script a thousand times and it always ends the same way. But if the audience feels like you know that, the stakes will disappear, they will see the actor instead of the character, and then they will fall asleep (literally). Improv reminds us that each audience is unique, each performance is the first time the story has been told, and the character’s journey is not predetermined. It keeps us responsive.
Whether you are a student, teacher, or professional actor, give improvisation another go. It’s great fun and it will make you a better performer.