Improvisation: Life’s one big show

Jack Gallagher '17

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Life is one long improv show. From deciding what you’re going to wear to school, to making huge decisions in your life, like many seniors are right now, you never know what’s going to come next. New locations, relationships, and activities are introduced to our lives every day and we take that information as it comes, grasp it and use it to advance our lives. Just like you have control of your life, you have power over your scene, your choices, words, actions, all determine where the scene will go, and ultimately your life.

For those of who do not know what Improvisation, it is creating something, whether it be a scene, song, anything, without previous arrangement. Charna Halpern talks about in Truth in Comedy that “true improvisation is getting on stage and performing without any preparation or planning.” Amy Poehler, Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Will Ferrell, are all just some of the worlds amazing improvisers. Shows like Saturday Night Live, The Office, Who’s Line is it Anyway all use improv in their production. But why is improv so important to an actor, or anyone for that matter?

Aside from improv generating raw humor and acting as a great warm up, improv is actually a very important skill to have in your daily life. Shelly Cole, an acting and improv teacher at Peak Acting in Denver, says, “every actor, every artist, every person can benefit from improv, it’s used in the corporate world to open up lines of discussion, to help bridge gaps between people, to brainstorm new ideas, to make people feel they are part of a team.”

Improvisation is a great way get an actor to feel a sense of belonging as well as make them feel more comfortable with the unknown. “Acting is about re-acting” Shelly says. As a character, you never know what your scene partner is going to say, at least you’re supposed to make it look that way, and improv helps take you out of “waiting for your next line” and rather makes you listen and find discovery with your scene partner. That’s when the magic happens. When two actors make an honest discovery or connection in a scene, that’s those Oscar moments.

“I believe it’s so important for an actor to be a good improviser” Shelly states, “because sometimes when the scene ends and the camera keeps rolling, that’s when the best shots are taken, when the actors are just together in the moment and everything that comes out is natural.”

Good improvisation is not forced, it flows naturally. By listening to your partner and hearing what they have to say and reacting to that, that’s when a genuine scene is created. Shelly says that “improv is such a powerful tool for an actor to have because it makes them live in the moment, and be truly present in the scene because you never know what can happen next.”

Improv is not just a powerful tool for an actor, it’s a great skill for anyone to have. Improv teaches actors to do a few things: to always say yes, make strong choices you can stand behind, and to listen to and trust in your partner.

All of these things are important in life as well. In improv, you’re taught to always say yes so you can add new information to the scene and keep things moving. Just as in life it’s important to try and not limit yourself to what you’re comfortable with. Take risk, try new things, and experience what the world has to offer. Secondly were taught to stand behind our choices. Be true to who you are and what you do. Do things, make choices, that you can fight for and are passionate about. Don’t just sit on the sideline and follow others. Make your own path and be proud of what you have accomplished.

Lastly, it’s important as humans that we listen to one another, here what your friends, family, people you don’t agree with have to say. Let everyone bring their idea to the table and work together to create something amazing. By putting your trust and faith in your friends or scene partner you allow them to help you grow and develop into something bigger and better.

Put trust in yourself, Shelly says. “You’re where you are for a reason, you have every right to be here just as much as all these other actors, you are here because you are talented.”

Just as in life you have worked to get to where you are today, be proud of that. Most importantly, have fun. Enjoy the process of creating a scene from nothing. You can make the scene or your life whatever you want. The only limits you have are the ones you put on yourself.

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