“Look for something bigger than yourself and join it.” — Sébastien Chambres, 5th April 2017, Brest (FR)
This quote beautifully captures an essential part of improv for me. If we are always on the look to join something which is bigger than ourselves, we leave no room for the ego. Perfect!
Don’t go on stage to create something or to make something up. Go on stage to discover and join what is already there.
“When one decides, the other has to discover.” — Daniel Orrantia, 6th April 2016, Leuven (BE)
We don’t like to be too creative on stage. Being creative implies making too many decisions as actors. Our characters should of course be making decisions all the time, otherwise we keep on stalling the story, but we as actors should be as much in the moment as possible.
However, obviously we sometimes make conscious decisions about things in the scene. We can choose a character from the onset, imply a location in a line of dialogue, have a general idea for an offer to make.
In all of these situations, it is very important you remain fully aware that your decision still has to be discovered by your partner. Leave the time and space for that to happen. Don’t jump to the next thing right away.
Keeping this in mind prevents us following our own path in a scene, which risks our scene partner to be left behind in the dark… Take care of each other!
“Discovery beats invention!” — Bart Van Loon, 2nd July 2015, Milan (IT)
Good improv happens when stories or scenes are discovered by the actors. Discovered, as opposed to invented or created.
Inventing or creating stuff is a cognitive process which happens in your head. You can do it by yourself or you can use some kind of muse (to which you don’t give anything back). It requires you to dig into your memories and experiences of other times and other places.
Improv on the other hand, is a group process involving giving and receiving. It requires you to be in the moment, to tap into the here and now only.
Even a good solo improviser will stay alert and get surprised by him- or herself. And the musician. And the audience. (also see: On solo scenes)
Don’t say: “I’m an improviser, I make things up”, since making up stuff is precisely what we should not be doing.