Imagine you, and five others in the middle of a floor, surrounded
by a huge crowd with their smiling gazes fixed on you. You're
acting, but you aren't following any script, and you're sitting
on your friend who is pretending to be a chair. Feel weird? Feel
wacky? You should be!
Welcome to the world of Improv!
It's nothing more than being told who and where you are, and
then having to act accordingly. Yet, it takes so much more than
just memorizing some lines, and it is much more than just running
amuck. It's about fast-thinking, confidence and teamwork. Yes,
it takes a lot, but it is a rewarding experience.
"Improv" comes from the word "improvisation",
which basically means making something out of what you have on
the spot. In this case, a short piece of live acting is put together
on the spot.
In an Improv game, a ref selects suggestions from the audience
and gives them to the team. The team of six Improvers are given
these suggestions to incorporate in the scene. The point of this
is to prove that the scene is made up right there and then.
The team will then "huddle" for fifteen seconds.
In that time, the team's captain will assign them with the character
traits suggested to them by the ref, and explain the basic idea
of how the scene will unfold. No time for any more details -
it's now up to the team to develop the dialogue and appropriate
actions. Other members of the team will 'physicalize' an environment
by miming extra people, furniture, terrain, or even animals.
Improv comes in many forms. There are four types of official
games (the ones played in the competitions), and a countless
number of unofficial games and warm-up exercises.
In an official Improv competition, multiple teams perform
four scenes each. The teams are awarded points for good acting,
putting together a flowing scene, and physicalization. The games
played in an official competition are called the character event,
the theme event, the issues event, and the style event.
The character event is entertaining to watch. In this event,
the team is given two or three character traits selected by the
referee (smart, stupid, evil, optimistic etc. as well as an additional
element that will affect the scene ("the building is on
fire...", "everything is made from cheese..."...).
After taking into account the suggested details, the team could
come up with a scene about stupid and evil people interacting
in a world of cheese.
The style event is fun to act. The team chooses a movie, TV
series, a play, or anything to make a scene around. The team
decides beforehand what kind of suggestions they need make the
scene work. Then they ask the referee to take them from the audience.
It can be any number of character traits or elements that will
be included in their vaguely-structured scene. Then, they proceed
to act out a scene in the style of what they've chosen, making
sure to mimic the style of the movie or show that they picked
The issues event is often a poignant piece of acting. Here,
the team is given a situation involving people and a problem.
Not only does the team have to act out the problem, but they
also have to come up with a realistic solution to the problem.
The situations involve common problems that might affect teenagers,
or emotional subjects like death. In this event, the scoring
is based mainly on the acting in the scene and the scene's conclusion.
The theme event is my personal favourite. The team will be
given only one suggestion in the form of a theme such as trouble,
dreams, time, and so forth. A team can then choose between two
approaches. They could act out a scene in which the theme pops
up repeatedly (for example, in a time theme, somebody would ask
for the time or say a phrase like "It's time for..."
); or do it "Herald" style. In the Herald scenario
, the team remains in a huddle with smaller groups coming out
and acting short scenes. Each group is oriented around the theme.
If the theme was "time", they might do a scene where
somebody is writing a test, and then say "Time's up!";
followed by a scene in which somebody is making soup, and says
"I'll add some thyme..." - a play on words can earn
the team extra points.
Improv is a great way to meet people, and an excellent way
to build character. Why not try it yourself? Feeling wacky yet?
You will be!