I’ve recently joined an improv theatre group in Calgary, after a few years of hiatus from the theatre scene. I feel like I’m coming home to a family that is welcoming me back with open arms. And at the same time, I’m trying hard to remember everyone’s name.
I thought I knew a few things about improv acting and story-building in general. I guess I knew a few theories, but putting it on stage has been a harsh lesson in not knowing anything after all. Some things I’m learning in practice:
- Always start positive, so the character has somewhere worse to go
- Never stay safe – always leave the safety zone behind
- When confronted with danger and conflict, go towards it, not away from it
- Get into as many sticky situations as possible
- Learn and grow from each crisis and move forward
- Always move the story forward – never get stuck in “gossip”
- Always accept offers and promises; take them at face value and do something with them
- Never block someone else
- Always be sensitive to others around you; listen to what they say, watch their body language, and be aware of the direction they are going in
The tips I learned in improv class are actually good tips for living life – as long as you prefer growth and new experiences and joy, rather than the comfort of the living room couch. Personally, having been stuck on the couch for too many years, I am looking upon my new adventures with excitement.
Of course, a lot of these things are counter-intuitive, and frankly, if I had followed this advice through my childhood, I’d still be grounded now, 20 years later. But I’m not a kid any more, and so what will serve and support me now, as an adult, is very different from the safety nets of childhood. But life was meant to be lived!