What in the World is Improv?
You might have heard your Drama Kid say that they did some improv in their class but what exactly is improv?
Improvisation, or improv, is a form of live theatre in which the plot, characters, and dialogue of a game, scene, or story are made up in the moment. Often improvisers will take a suggestion from the audience, or draw on some other source of inspiration to get started.
Improv is incredibly unique in that if you see a performance, that’s it… there will never be another scene or show exactly like it ever done again. Improv is different every time.
There are two different forms of improv, long form and short form. The short form consists of scenes that only take a few minutes, stand on their own, or that are connected by an overarching thematic motif, but not connected to each other. Improv “games” are largely all short form and usually lead to very comical interactions. Whereas, long form improv includes the actors staying in character to create a more detailed scene that can end up being made into a short play. This form tends to take on a more serious tone but can include comedic elements.
A very popular version of long form improv is the Murder Mystery. Actors have a general idea of where the plot is headed and even who the murderer is but must come up with most of the show in the moment.
The most important aspect of both long and short improv is the concept of “Yes, and…”. An actor must never say no to a suggestion made by another actor. If there is a suggestion of aliens who live underwater, the actor must say “Yes, and” and continue to add more details to the scene.
In fact, there are many rules to improv theatre according to PanTheatre.com:
The first ten improv rules are:
- Say “yes, and!”
- Add new information.
- Don’t block.
- Avoid asking questions- unless you’re also adding information.
- Play in the present and use the moment.
- Establish the location.
- Be specific and provide colorful details.
- Change, Change, Change!
- For serious and emotional scenes, focus on characters and relationships.
- For humorous scenes, take choices to the nth degree or focus on actions/objects.
In Drama Kids, we don’t delve too far into all of those rules. We use improvisation to create silly characters and have fun but behind the scenes, it does so much more! Improvisational theatre encourages critical and creative thinking while allowing students to trust their instincts so they don’t second guess themselves.
Try some improv at home with your family. Give this game a shot then play some more from SecondCity.com:
Pick an object, any object! The first player points out something about it, and the next player has to say “yes, and…” [insert something else about the object here]. If you can’t think of an add-on, you’re out! Choose a new object and begin again!
Example: The object? A shoe.
Player One: “A shoe is supportive.”
Player Two: “Yes, and stinky if Dad is wearing it.”
Player Three: “Yes, and you’re grounded.”
(Dad would be out for not staying on topic.)