In terms of emotional reactions and responses improv can be looked at as real life in reverse.
An example of someone accidentally encountering a sleeping wolf (happens to me all the time).
- There is an external reality, a sleeping wolf.
- I see the reality.
- I process the reality.
- I have a feeling about the reality; fear.
- I have a physical/emotional response; I gasp and my heart rate goes up.
- I display that response; I look scared, my eyes widen, my mouth open.
- I have an action; I tip toe carefully away.
Improv is the other way round. In improv you do an action, have a response, that makes you feel something, that presents you an idea, you see it, you share that idea, that is now the new reality.
For instance in improv:
- I’m jumping up and down.
- I’m laughing.
- I feel exhilarated and happy.
- I think/process it’s my brithday.
- I ‘see’ the other person is holding a birthday cake.
- I say “oh wow a birthday cake”.
- When they accept that then that is the new reality, it is my birthday and I have a cake.
When improvisers are in fear they get stuck in processing mode, all stiff unmoving and unemotional, where it is hard to ‘make stuff up’ because there is no actual inspiration. In this mode all they see is the empty stage or a room above a pub, because that’s where they actually are.
Attempting to do improv by thinking and processing is coming at it the wrong direction. Much better, easier, and more fun to come to it from the emotional, behavioural, physical, especially at the start of a scene.
When you have nothing just do anything, and see what happens from there. Let the movement and emotions direct the mind.
It doesn’t make sense at the start. So do something that doesn’t make sense, then let yourself make sense of it.