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In its purest form, improvisational theatre – or improv, as it is called, is the art of theatre in which most of the performance is unplanned and/or unscripted. Improv gives performers free license to spontaneously create their characters and dialogue, as well as the resulting action and, indeed, the story itself.
Such a free-wheeling performance style begs the question: why would one need improvisational theatre lessons when the very idea of lessons implies structure and rigidity?
A large part of improvisational theatre is of the comedy variety. While aspiring performers may have a sense of comedic timing, honing it, refining it and learning how to use it most effectively; discovering how your personal brand of comedy plays against other performers is vital to developing your performance skills.
Did you know that scriptwriters often use improvisational skills to bounce ideas off of each other?
Comedic timing is not the only reason aspiring performers learn improvisational techniques. If you want to act in stage, film or television productions, improvisational skills are vital.
You might think that it is the director’s job to tell you how to move in front of the camera (or audience) and what facial expression to adopt. That is true to an extent but, as a performer, what do you bring to the scene? Where do you find the skill to expand your range, to show emotions you might not have ever experienced?
Have you ever participated in a training session at work that involved role-playing? What about one that called for you and a team of coworkers to solve a problem or achieve a goal? If so, congratulations: you have experienced a bit of improvisational training.
This type of improvisation, known as applied improvisation is often used in business and management training. It is used in classrooms around the world as an educational tool to help develop critical thinking skills. Law students learn courtroom demeanor and how to present arguments in moot courts – perhaps one of the most renown examples of improvisational theatre.
Therapists and social workers also use improv skills to connect with the people they help to gain more insight into their clients’ feelings and thoughts or to learn more about their situation.
Let’s say you are long out of school, your job does not require any teamwork development and that you have absolutely no intention of ever treading the boards – either in your local theatre or on a national stage. Improvisational theatre lessons could still bring you great benefits.
If you’re feeling restless, longing for something new but not quite sure what ‘new’ represents, why not take a bet on yourself? Discovering aspects of yourself that have yet to be uncovered is one of life’s most rewarding experiences. As the saying goes: “You don’t know what you’re capable of until you get out of your comfort zone” and, who knows? You may surprise yourself with what you can do once you break into improvisation.
Comfort zones: so many of us build them to stave off anxiety of the unknown. If you regularly deal with anxiety, as so many of us do, improvisational theatre is a great way to lower anxiety levels.
Another old saw: “Fake it till you make it”, would seem tailor-made for improv. If you’ve been searching for a positive mindset, a can-do attitude and all of the confidence you need to embrace anything life throws your way, improvisational theatre will deliver!
Very few performers of stage and screen have attained stardom without in-depth studies, either at a university or at an academy of art. How much would you bet that the best performers have taken more than one improv class?
If you are contemplating a future as an actor or are already enroled in a university drama program, you could gain a more diverse experience by taking extracurricular lessons in improvisation. The more exposure you get to your craft, the more you will have to offer when it’s your turn to take centre stage.
And extra lessons would definitely look good on your CV.
Whatever your reasons for taking improvisational theatre lessons – even if you’re just looking for a new hobby, you need to know where to start.
If your community has a playhouse or a theatre, you might see if they have an amateur theatre group that welcomes new members. Learning from experienced improv performers is a great way to start! You can watch and imitate their movements and mannerisms, and see how they spontaneously create dialogue and react to each other.
If you’d rather take a more formal route, perhaps your local community centre offers lessons in improvisational acting. There, you might delve deeper into the history of improv performances and learn more about the theory and methods behind this type of acting.
Finally, you could search for continuing education classes at your local schools. All around the UK, there are classes in dramatic acting, comedic acting and improvisational acting, usually taught by people who have experienced the stress and joy of performing live.
If the idea of joining your community playhouse and/or taking group lessons scares you from developing your improvisational skills; even if you are a theatre major at university, you should consider taking one-on-one improvisational theatre lessons with a Superprof private tutor.
Superprof has improv tutors scattered throughout the country and, should you not find a Superprof tutor close to you, you might sign up for improv lessons online. Indeed, online lessons would be an exercise in improvisation all on their own!
Whether you are a drama student preparing for the LAMDA exams or someone on the path to self-discovery; a teacher looking for new classroom techniques or a training coordinator at work, Superprof improvisational acting tutors have got you covered.
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