My number one fear as a creative has always been improvisation. The thought of performing spontaneously without any preparation completely puts me out of my comfort zone. As an actor, improv is required a lot, especially in theatrical and film auditions, so it’s key to utilize it whenever you can.
So how do actors do it?
It’s simple, it all comes down to practice. Robin Williams, the master of improv didn’t get where he was in an instant, it took years of developing, exploring and perfecting his skill. For some, it’s a skill that comes naturally and for others, it develops over time. The more I practiced improv the better I became at it, and the better I became the more comfortable I was to perform on the spot. Practicing is one thing, but there’s more to take into consideration. Here are some tricks that will help you improve:
1. Accept and say YES
Agreeing with your partner or situation keeps the scene going. When you immediately say no in the scene it will die out, and that’s not what you want. Saying, “Yes, and…” adds and expands. Improv is a team effort, so listening to your partner/partners and communicating well is a great place to start.
2. Well, don’t just stand there, do something!
So you’ve said yes, now you react. It’s your time to shine and take the scene where you want it to go, as long as it’s in line with your partners. Bringing energy and charisma to your performance helps people engage with your scene. Acting is living under imaginary circumstances, accept it as truth, and remember to put yourself in the given circumstances. React as you would in real life, otherwise people will see the illusion.
3. Be vulnerable
Vulnerability means depth. If you are open with yourself and each other you can allow for your performance to go to another level. And sometimes you might have to look stupid. Commedia dell’arte is well very interesting and at times they look ridiculous, however, they rely heavily on storytelling. At the end of the day the audience doesn’t care how ridiculous they are, they’re purely acting to get a story across, so next time you get a chance, take your scene a little deeper.
4. Oh, and did I say practice?
My fear of improv only existed because I was lacking in practice. Once I started putting myself out there, said yes to my partner and put myself in the given circumstances, it became less nerve-racking and more enjoyable. Consider joining a theatre group, improvisation class or workshops and remember to keep practicing even if you think you’re not doing the best, you’re guaranteed to get better!
Improvisation is one of the best techniques for actors and helps us to soften our focus and heighten our awareness so that we respond well in different situations. It allows you to listen, one of the most important skills for an actor. Lastly, improv is experimental so you have the freedom to fail without fear, your performance doesn’t need to be perfect, but it may require courage and a little bit of your creative side.