I is for Improvisation

| May 5, 2014

Years ago, before I started teaching, before I was a mom or a grad student, I was part of an improvisational comedy company in Cleveland. The audience participates in the event (dare I say experience?) of the show. They make suggestions of theatre styles, unusual quirks, places for scenes to begin, the relationship between characters, events, etc. They co-create the scenes by suggesting the starting or ending points– sometimes they are physically part of the scene. Improv is dependent on a participatory spectator.

When a scene starts, the first “rule” is that the actors make eye contact. There’s something rather mystical in that initial communication. If the actors are familiar with one another, that eye contact lets them know who will start the scene. The next rule is “yes”– whatever is suggested or the partner does should not be denied because that stops the scene in it’s tracks. Last rule –don’t label. If one actor is makes it clear what role they’re taking on, the other actor needs the freedom to select their own role. Those rules seem fitting outside of improv as well– make eye contact, say yes, and don’t label.