Improv Everywhere

    One of the best parts of the acting process is improv. Ask any actor what their favourite part about acting is, and most likely (7 out of 10) will say improv is the greatest thing of all.

    I personally love improv. It’s challenging and fun, and the best part about it is that it allows your creative juices to flow. I enjoy being able to explore new areas of imagination and try new acting techniques while doing improv.

    But how does one begin this process of improvisation?

    Are there things you should do or should you just jump right in?

    I think it largely depends on the individual. I can jump right into it, but there are valuable reasons to prepare for an improv session, as well. The biggest reason for warming up is you’ll get the most out of the improv exercise if you do.

    This is how you prepare.

    Step 1- prepare your mind.

    I like to clear my mind as the first step to preparing for an improv exercise. If there are any distractions you should try to let go of them and focus

    on the exercise alone. Give yourself to what you are doing, and do not think about past or future events.

    This can be difficult if you tend to overthink, but you’ll find that practicing focus on what you are doing will not only help you in your acting, but also in life as well.

    Some ways I try this is by simply breathing deeply. I find it’s good to sit down with my back straight and eyes closed while I breath in deeply. It helps also to count each breath, but make sure you do not fall asleep. This has almost happened to me a couple of times.

    This simple step of breathing deeply can relieve you of stress and take years off your age. It’s a good way to concentrate. Another thing I like to do to prepare mentally is meditation.

    Allow yourself to think about everything that is distracting you at the moment and then when you are done, allow yourself to forget those things for the moment and think only about the exercise at hand.

    Step 2- prepare your body.

    Now we can move to the physical exercises. It’s good for you body to be warm before you begin to prevent possible injuries and allow yourself the freedom to do more than you would if you had not warmed up.

    The first thing we can do is stretch our bodies. I find it’s good to stretch my legs and arms as well as my neck. You can do this by stretching your hands down as far as you can without bending your knees.

    You can then proceed to stretch your hands and arms by reaching as high as you can.

    Be sure to rotate your neck as well to get that stretched. Do regular stretching for as long as you need until you feel warmed up and limber.

    The next thing I like to warm up is my voice. Voice is key to an actor, it’s our main instrument. You can start by repeating simple tongue twisters as “red leather, yellow leather” as well as “how much wood could a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”

    The idea behind voice warm-ups is that you should cover every aspect of pronunciation. Make sure to cover your t’s and k’s and s’ and p’s. These are important to warm up. Make it fun for yourself too and explore new exercises.

    I enjoy being able to explore new areas of imagination and try new acting techniques while doing improv.

    Step 3- prepare your creativity.

    The third thing I like to warm up before diving into improv is my creativity. You can do this through visualisation and small games such as pretending situations, or make-believe.

    I find it can be helpful to spark creativity before improv, that way you will naturally be in the rhythm when you begin. With mind, body, and creativity warm-ups, you will be ready to begin practicing improv.

    Have fun and explore new ways of stretching every area each time you warm up. Each one of these steps will help you in getting the most out of improv exercises and will  increase the quality of your learning at the same time.

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    • Keaton is an actor and writer who works with the Initiative Production Company in Brisbane, Australia. Native to Alaska, he enjoys staring at the stars while contemplating the meaning of life.

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