Hello Theatre B Fans and Friends!
For my blog post, I was asked to write about improv. I said yes, and… here goes:
The lights turn on. The room is filled with an anxious audience that anticipates whatever words come from your mouth. There is a moment of silence that is broken and the first line is delivered. The scene begins and the action starts. Also, it’s worth noting there is no script. No road map. No beginning, middle, and end. But hopefully, there will be. That is improv theater.
I first discovered improv when I was 17 in high school. At that time it was just simple games that we would play in our theater class. We thought they were funny exercises and an opportunity to make silly jokes and make each other laugh. It wasn’t until I watched the first episode of Whose Line Is It Anyway on television when I realized improv could be something more. I was instantly sucked in. My friends and I started an improv group in high school now known as the Donkey Hotey Improv-sickles. At that time it was an opportunity for a bunch of us to get together in a room and play. But after we hosted our first live performance in front of our entire high school student body everything went up a notch.
Since that time there is not anything else in the theater that gives me the same rush as an improv scene that is well executed and ends in complete unity. In order for the improv to work, it requires complete trust in the people you are onstage with. It also requires collaboration and a willingness to work together. Traditionally in a play, there’s conflict that can arise. There may be a protagonist and an antagonist. This can obviously occur even in improv, but the actors have the safety net of a script which has been thought out and edited for months and months, workshopped for audiences, and edited further. Improv has no script or framework to start with. For an improv scene to move forward it requires all parties on stage to be in agreement that even if they’re playing characters that are opposed from each other they’re working towards the same thing, a scene that makes sense.
I love that. I love the idea that there are no bad ideas. I love the idea that every suggestion is an opportunity. As creatives, I think it’s our job to constantly be searching for something unusual, interesting stories, different viewpoints, or new ideas to inspire others and ourselves. This concept can easily be broken down by people who negate others’ suggestions and the whole collaboration process. And let’s be honest if you get a roomful of artists together they’re not all going to agree. But for some reason when you put them on stage in an improv scene they are forced to work together. Everyone has to make it work.
This general concept is what I love about improv. The fact that it forces us to work together to make something happen. Regardless of how silly and ridiculous the idea or suggestion may be, we have to make it work. We need more of this right now. Unity and collaboration. It feels like its constantly one side vs another. Too much opposition and not enough collaboration. We could all use a little more Improv right now.