Thursday, February 9, 2012

5 Reasons You Should Join an Improv Theatre Group

Improvisation theatre, is a form of theatre in which you don't know what you'll play in advance. You just go on stage and invent a scene or even an entire play on the spot, often inspired by a suggestion from the audience. Although it might seem nerve wracking to go up on stage, not knowing what you're going to do, it's actually much easier than participating in a traditional play, where you need to know lines and lines of text by heart. Even though you don't need rehearsals, improv groups still have training sessions, in which you learn the skills you need to create scenes and stories that will engage the audience. Many techniques you learn during these trainings will benefit you in the rest of your life. Here are 5 reasons you should join an improv group.

1. Forget your sorrows for one evening

In the lives of most people, there is a lot to worry about: Your boss isn't happy because sales are dropping, and is pushing everyone to work harder, your kids aren't doing well at school, it's 3 days before christmas, and you still haven't bought all the presents,... Many ways exist to free your mind of all these thoughts that prevent you from having peace of mind, and a good night of sleep. For me, and for many other people, playing improv theatre forces you to do just that. It forces you to focus on what you're playing., your only thoughs are about the story, and how you act and react to what other players do. At the start of an improv session, you usually have some warmup games. These games help the players to free their mind from unwanted thoughts, and as esoteric as it sounds, make them focus on the here and now.

2. Get rid of fear of failure

Unless you play long-form improve, where you improvize e an entire play at once, or at least a store that's longer than just one scene, most of the scenes you'll play will be based on a given format. Most of the formats that are played in front of an audience are meant to put the players in a difficult situation, to see how they get out of it. For the audience, nothing is funnier then seeing the player fail at what they try to do, everyone laughs and the show continues. A common example of this, is called the alphabet game. In this game, two players play a scene, in which they take turns to say something. However, the first player's sentence has to start with an 'A', the second player then has to say something that starts with a 'B' and so on. Tension builds up in the audience as the game gets to letters like X or Z, where players are probably going to stumble. If the player says a line that starts with the desired letter, you usually get applause from the audience. If you fail to, the audience has a good laugh, and the scene continues. This game is often played in two teams, standing in two rows. If a player fails, he is sent to the back of the row, or to the side of the stage, to see which team runs out of players first. Quite a lot of time is spent in improv training, to teach players that failure isn't bad, and in most cases even amusing. It gets even more fun when the audience gets to be the judge, for example in a game called 'story, story, die!'.

3. Learn to be a be flexible and adapt quickly.

A scene in improv theatre is never the product of one mind. While you're playing, you might have an idea in your head of where the story is going, but some other player may come in, and change the whole thing around This may be very small things like when you're making the movement of chopping a tree, and someone runs on the stage yelling 'homerun!', because the movement looked like you were swinging a baseball bat. This changes the entire story around, and you'll need to adapt.

4. Learn to be a team player.

As we've seen in the previous section, any player has the power to change the scene completely. However, the goal of the actors is to work together as a team to create a nice scene. That's why, anytime you do something in the scene you'll do it because you want to advance the story, or add something to it. One of the problems you often see in scenes is called blocking, which means saying 'no' to anything other players try to bring to the scene. This may be literally answering 'no' to a question like "let's go to grandma's house', but it may also be far mr more subtle. For example, if you're not paying attention in a scene because you're not focussed, you may not notice, and therefore ignore a lot of opportunities your co-players are trying to bring to the scene. As an example of that, let's say you're playing a scene in a kitcen, and you're angry at your son because he always makes a mess of his room. While you're rambling on about how dirty his room is, an other player may drop a sharp knife on his foot. If you're so concentrated on your ramble, you may not notice it, and the opportunity for the development of the story gets lost. By training your attention to what others are bringing to the table, and your ability tp bring things to the table that bring the team towards the goal, you'll become a much better team player.

5. Get rid of stiffness, become playful

I don't mean stiffness in the physical sense. As you grow older, you loose the ability to play, to experiment. You go with the crowd, just do what everyone else is doing, don't stand out too much. In impro, you'll often be crawling over the floor, playing a talking dog, or hopping around playing a superhero with springs on his shows, and it's absolutely ok. You can release the child within you, break the grey barriers of what we consider 'normal', and just go do something crazy and creative. This really helps break the monotonicity of our lives. I usually leave from an improv training, much happier and energized than I came.

Wrapping up.

I hope that you'll now want to start playing improv theatre, because i'm certain that you'll love it, and become as enthusiastic as I am. Just type 'improv theatre' and the name of your city into your favorite search engine, and find an improv group near you. If you're of the competitive type, you can also look for theatresports. It's a very fun form of improv, which usually leads to a very fun competition.

P.S. Don't say "I can't do this because I'm too ...". I'm visuallly impaired, and I'm still doing this. This is something anyone can participate in!

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