What does it take to improvise?
Does it require a natural born talent? Extra thick skin and fearlessness towards failure or embarrassment? Or is superhuman creativity a prerequisite?
Believe it or not you are already a well-trained professional in improvisational theatre – you’ve been practicing tirelessly since birth and have improvised survival up to your current age. Congratulations!
Today’s workshop led by Guts Improv troupe leader 吳效賢 was about reaching into those skills you already have, sharpening your tools of focus, listening and eye contact; and learning that in improv as in life all you have is this present moment – whatever happens is the best that could have because at each instant you never know what will happen next.
The afternoon began in a circle with the twenty-five participants: some audience members knew one another from previous events, some were first time acquaintances and some following their curiosity and joined us after only passing by the door!
The first game seemed simple enough. One after the next, we passed a single hand clap from one person to the other – the activity exercised our awareness and dexterity in teamwork and a responsiveness to the changing dynamic of the group’s internal communication. No words were spoken, only laughs allowed!
Where at first we met as strangers in short time group became very relaxed with one another. One participant comments that she enjoys these activities because she learns how to let down her guard and interact with strangers on a level different from her everyday rhythm of life.
In improv there are three basic principles:
Relax and have fun
“Yes, And” is a way of building a dialogue and story. As one picks up a story line one should always build on it, both agreeing to the original construction and logic while also adding new depth and variety to the story. In this way the collective imagination of the group adds a richness of ideas, personalities, creativity and flavor to an improvisation creating an end product that is very different from what one person alone could have thought up. The “Yes, And” attitude is also a reminder that there is no Right or Wrong – everything is just evolving context.
In “Relax and have fun” we rae reminded that the more one relaxes, the more creative and adaptive to changing circumstances one becomes.
Each moment is a result of the creativity of a group of people – in life as well as in theatre. Since it is impossible to fully control any situation why not use the “Yes, And” technique to build upon the actions of others and be an engaged participant in the development of a scenario. Jump in, if it doesn’t work out the way you wanted, celebrate the “failure”! and move on. Creating a smart or interesting story isn’t so important, more essential is responding in a way that others can pickup and work with. Pass the baton of thought – keep it moving and together we create a rhythm and a liveliness where every aspect of the process can be play.
Here’s one more trick for thriving on uncertainty: as in improv theatre, so too in improv life!