What is Improv?
Improv is total authenticity. Comedy arises from that authenticity.
Improv means showing up, not showing off.
Improv is an effortless connection with all around you - while you discover your own unique talents.
Improv is the magic of spontaneous theater. Like an Aikido Master with invisible hands, step into the unknown and blend into the scene before you. Trust you can manage any energy coming your way to direct or redirect.
GUIDELINES FOR SUCCESSUL IMPROMPTU COMMUNICATION
Start On A Positive Note
Avoid arguing, haggling, or creating conflict from the get-go. Challenges arise on their own. Your character might be a drill sergeant, but you do not have to enter barking orders. You can enter with a comment like, “What a sunny day it is in London.” Thus, you serve the scene by telling your players and listeners where they are, (in London) as well as rendering an immediate positive note.
Be conscious of all cues, verbal and non-verbal. Simultaneously gather information for future use while remaining fully present to what is happening. Allow other players to have their say. Read them as they speak.
Stay Physically/Mentally Present
Ready to go? Jump in! Physically lean in. Watch your breathing. Are you nervously distracting yourself? If so, find your feet. Sometimes just feeling your feet returns you to Earth and to the present moment.
Improv is not counter-intuitive. It is counter-instinctive. Instincts would have you retreat, step back, or defend when faced with the unknown or the uncomfortable – with Improv, fearlessly drop into the scene. Immerse.
Crucial to establishing and maintaining connections with others. Eye contact is a perfect tool to bring yourself back to the scene when you find yourself drifting.
Speak with authority. Own the stage with your voice. If you have an accent you would like to try on, do so with the understanding the altered voice must stay altered throughout the presentation. Do so only if an accent serves the scene and the other players.
Example: My project was to be in a library – as a cast member from Gone With The Wind. For the fun of it and to serve the scene, with a mincing Southern belle drawl, I sashayed along invisible book cases as Miss Scarlet from Atlanta, Georgia. Hilarious.
Always Say “Yes, And…”
Also known in Improv as “Accept and Advance.” Be constantly willing and ready to abandon your own agenda, storyline, or ”good idea.” Stay present to what is offered. Take the offer and move in on it – verbally and/or physically.
Example: Offstage, you might envision your part is a cave dweller in Siberia. You walk on stage to discover you are on Mars! Not a caveman, a spaceman! Envision Buzz Lightyear, and there you are.
When we say, “Yes, but,” we shut down the communication. However! When we say, “Yes, AND,” the connection can continue. By altering our vocabulary from the yes-buts to the yes-ands we encourage a far better success rate in our relationships. (Both in and out of Improv).
Example: Would you like to go to the movies? I can answer with, “Yes but not tonight.” Shut down. Answer with “Yes, and I’d like to go another time. Not tonight.” Keeps the game going.
You Are An Expert
In Improv, there are no “don’t knows.” Fake it to make it. Act with confidence, especially when you make it up. This aspect of Improv is highly supportive for life’s uncomfortable, unsure moments. Acting “as if” brings a heightened sense of self-confidence and self-worth.
Example: A shawl was the object. As experts in their field, each person had to demonstrate they knew something about that shawl. One woman created a veil, complete with belly-dancing moves. Another woman converted the shawl into a Mother Mary headscarf, holding a position of great reverence. You just never know with Improv.
Allow Yourself To Be Surprised
Stay fresh. Stay open. At times when you start Improv, it will seem like: Nothing, nothing, nothing and then – Something! Allow the not knowing to become The Knowing.
Example: On a Zoom call the other day, the question was, “Do flowers have feelings?” After a moment of pause, I noticed my silk flower arrangement at my elbow. Pulling a flower forward I asked, “Do you have feelings?” Then, leaned an ear into the petals and seemingly “listened” to the answer.
Dare To Leave
Know when to step in and take center stage, when to stay in the background, and when to leave. Look for satisfying ends. Stage time is shared time both on and off the stage.
Mistakes Are Gifts
“I screwed up!” Be good natured about misunderstandings. Rather than try to cover up or hide “mistakes,” admit them. Use them. Let others use them. There is no such thing as a mistake. Only experience.
Find Magic In Repetition/Reincorporation
Bring back material or information used earlier. Saying a phrase a time or two helps the other players as well as your audience to remember and keep track of what’s going on. Adds to the humor quotient as well!
Improvisers Help Each Other Out
No one is left alone on stage. Others step in. Group Mind is at work. Collectively vulnerable.
Serve The Scene
Look at and remember The Big Picture. Support the scene not your agenda. Remember the scene’s objective. Be willing to steer the narrative back to the original objective – why you are on the stage in the first place.
Make Your Partner Look Good
Be kind. Help others on stage, especially the less experienced players. Remember the best improvisers are not those with the most polished, razor-sharp wit and instincts, but who are a pleasure to work with!
HAVE FUN. REMEMBER – IT IS ALL MADE UP!
By: Christine A. Robinson
Professional Speaker, Author, Writer