The Importance of Improvisation

Written by R.K White


It’s important not to take oneself to seriously.

A well-rounded understanding and practise of Improvisation is essential for all actors and performers alike. It is a skill that carries itself over into everyday life; assisting with job interviews, meeting new people, customer service positions and expressing ones ideas or opinions openly and with confidence.

When we think of Improvisation often the first thing that comes to mind is comedy. Actors are generally thrown into unusual circumstances, with unlikely characters and locations, without the usual restraints and comfortability that comes from having a script. This lack of control combined with encouraged absurdity creates a tension for both the audience and the actor, with laughter being the natural release. But laughter is not the only reward that comes from practising and playing with improv. Improvisation can help enhance an actors abilities by practising skills commonly forgotten with a script in hand. Skills such as; active listening, being in the moment, following intuition and making strong choices.

Improvisation gives one the freedom to experiment, coming up with new characters you may never have considered playing otherwise. It presents to us the gift of make-believe – a skill often lost with age! But improvisation does not have to be limited to character creation alone. It is also a handy tool when given a new script. Taking a character off the page and experimenting with them in different scenarios can give you a greater understanding of what makes them tick, whilst highlighting any areas in which your representation of the character is lacking.

Improvisation is a skill that requires commitment to circumstance. No matter how absurd a situation, or unlikely a character is, it becomes your new truth and forces an abandonment of preconceived ideas in order for it to be successful. To be good at improvisation means adopting an anything goes attitude, letting go of your need to be in control and learning to trust your fellow actor. Improvisation wont always run smoothly but it is a forgiving and freeing form of artistic expression. One that teaches us to not take ourselves so seriously or hold too tightly onto the reigns. When we give ourselves overly completely to improvisation and still our words fail and we are left (possibly in front of an audience) not knowing what to make of ourselves or our characters situation – these are often the moments of truth that leave an audience in stitches! Reminding us that there is something to be gained, even from trying and failing. There is nothing more awkward for an audience than watching someone mess up and be bruised by the experience. Laughing at yourself gives the audience permission to laugh also. Remember even the best comedic improvisers find themselves stumped at times but they have learned not to care! Improvisation teaches us that instead of falling and hanging our head in shame, we turn that fall into a cartwheel!

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