Improv in a nutshell

Improv in a nutshell

I’ve had a break from all things improv over Christmas and New Year and I’m back into it all next week. I love coming back into improv after a short break as everything seems a bit clearer. I’ve forgotten loads of stuff that probably wasn’t very important anyway, and the things I do remember feel like what got me into impro in the first place.

Here you go, hope this is helpful somehow:

1. React to what’s just been said or done, even if you don’t know why, react. Don’t ignore it or criticise it or pretend it didn’t happen. React and you’ll find out why later.

2. Use what the other person says or does. The scene is being given to you constantly by the other person. Instead of battering their offers away try to use them and play with them. Connect to the other person and let yourself see what they do and then play with that.

3. Say the first things that comes to you. Don’t worry if it’s wrong or right, good or bad, there is no wrong or right, good or bad. All you have is your impulse in the moment so go with that. Improv is an art-form of self expression so nobody can define good/bad, right/wrong.

4. The root of all great improv is constant free-flowing honesty. Say what you think and feel there and then, and if that makes you feel good or bad then you can express that too and you’ll then find a new emotional place. Improv stops when honesty stops, so be honest moment by moment. Connect to yourself and see and feel what’s going on for you there and then, on an ongoing basis, and let that out and play with it.

5. Don’t worry about making mistakes, there are none and nobody knows what they are doing anyway. So just do anything and then see what happens. A ‘mistake’ is just an offer that you can treat as a welcome gift and incorporate into the scene as part of the fun.

6. Don’t feel like you have to be hilariously funny and make loads of jokes at the start of a story, just do the most obvious thing you can but with emotion and commitment and let something happen from there. Something from nothing.

7. Yes it’s fun to put in things like where you are, who you are, what you’re doing and what your relationship is at the start of a story, but it’s not a test and shouldn’t feel stressful doing that, just drop it in as it comes to you, play with it, and know that any offer is a good one.

8. Your mind might start to create an imaginary future story as the scene starts, which will make the offers of the other person seem jarring if they are out of synch with what you thought was going to happen. In that moment let your big plan drop and say yes to the current situation instead. In fact there is no “your story/their story” in impro, there is just “the story” which is being created moment and moment and neither of you know until the end.

Blog by Steve Roe, Director of Hoopla.

Hoopla’s next improv classes start next month.


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