Improvisation, or 'improv', is a specific but essential skill for actors to master; Thinking on your feet, reacting to your fellow actors in-the-moment, without rehearsal or scripts. It is often the scariest part of acting, whether you’re a complete beginner or a professional actor. There are some people who find this thrilling but for most of us, it’s just nerve wrecking!
If you want to be more confident with improvisation or take the plunge and do a class, here a few tips to prepare:
Put on some music at home and sing, dance and move your way around the whole space. Get used to freeing up your body and your voice without anyone watching!
2. Play a Game that Makes You Laugh
The whole point is to play, to create, to unlock the inner-child and find the ‘silly’ in all of us. So whether you want to create comedic scenes, or dramatic scenes, this sense of play can allow anyone to ‘go with the flow’ and improvise a scene confidently. Whether it’s twister, scrabble or charades, play a game with other people that unlocks your sense of play. Be as competitive as a child would be and don’t give up!
3. Start Conversations with People
The most important thing to remember with improv is that it’s just a conversation with another human! Anything can happen, just like any conversation in life; When you ask someone for directions, when you have a chat with a cab driver, or when you bump into someone in the street. Life is just us improvising, all the time! If the opportunity arises to chat about the weather, or how late the tube is then GO FOR IT. We spend a lot of time avoiding communicating, which makes acting and improvising an even harder challenge.
4. Talk to Yourself
It may sound strange, but talk while you’re cooking, working out, lying in the bath. Start talking and don’t stop! Talk about anything that comes into your mind, whether it makes sense or not. This will help you get used to fluid internal dialogue and allow a sense of play while you chat.
5. Take a Risk
Why do we find it so frightening? Well it’s the fear of the unknown. The little person sitting on our shoulder that says, ‘don’t do anything to look silly.’ It’s the childhood memories of doing something embarrassing at school and being laughed at. Improvisation makes us vulnerable to all of these things… BUT like any fear, when you face it head-on it can be liberating, joyous and sometimes life changing! Do something else that scares you; speak up in a meeting at work, go to that open audition, or write the first few lines of that poem you’ve been thinking about. If you can do that, then maybe doing some improv might not be so bad…