Emotional truth

“The silliness or seriousness of a scene is apart from its emotional truth.” — Charlotte Gittins and Andy Murray, 28th January 2017, Amsterdam (NL)

Finally a good way of expressing something that I always struggled with in the past.

When focussing on truth in scenes, we tend to go realistic. We stay close to ourselves and explore situations close to our everyday life. Hence we reach ‘serious’ scenes.

But taking our work seriously (i.e. playing truthfully) doesn’t at all need to mean that we have to play serious characters in serious situations. Be silly! Let improv be like dreams, not fiction!

"The silliness or seriousness of a scene is apart from its emotional truth." -- Charlotte Gittins and Andy Murray, 28th January 2017, Amsterdam (NL) Click To Tweet

Real truth

“Truth is better than realism.” — Marko Mayerl, 17th October 2016, Hamburg (DE)

Improv as a stage art form allows us improvisers to do almost anything we want. All too often however, we limit ourselves to overly realistic portrayal of our characters and their lives. I think it might be because of an overdose of television and movies we are consuming, making us forget the power of theatricality.

Make it bigger! We should use all of our body and voice to deliver our message to our audiences. Think of the stage as a canvas to paint on rather than a set to play in.

Dance! Sing! Bring us inner monologues! Jump around! Lose yourself completely in dilemma’s, emotions and beautiful moments. Go for choregraphic gestures to engage the audience into the inner world of the character.

Use everything you have to portray the truth for your character and don’t let yourself be limited by that dirty thing called realism.

"Truth is better than realism." -- Marko Mayerl, 17th October 2016, Hamburg (DE) Click To Tweet

Doing and being

“Concentrate on doing and being, not on meaning and conveying.” — Marko Mayerl, 16th July 2016, Hamburg (DE)

Internalise whatever it is you’re doing. Once you’re feeling an emotion or reaction strongly enough on the inside, it will automatically show on the outside. And it will be more truthful this way too; free bonus!

In fact, this is acting 101: don’t pretend you’re crying. Cry! Don’t ‘act’ you’re angry. Be really angry!

Many improvisers are afraid of this and on top of that most lack any formal training as actors or stage artists in general.

Just go for it and believe in yourself. We all know it’s not for real, no need to constantly remind us of that.

Change of breath

“Breaths cannot lie.” — Jill Bernard, 7th November 2015, Barcelona (ES)

The current goal at every given moment in a scene is to make your partner’s breath change. At the same time, you should always be aware of your own breathing to notice when it changed.

Yes, it will change without you asking it to. Your breath acts faster than your brain. Make sure you notice it so you can continue acting upon this greatest of gifts to an improviser: a simple truth emerging from the scene inside of you.

How do you feel?

“Tell us how you feel. That’s the only interesting content.” — Heather Urquhart, 5th November 2015, Barcelona (ES)

This was said during a long form musical workshop. It’s true in the context of singing (sing about how you feel), but by extension it counts for all dialogues in all scenes, doesn’t it?

Expressing how you feel is a great fallback when in doubt too, since it will certainly be a sentence that lives in the now.

Of course, don’t make up a feeling. Always tell the truth on stage.


“There is no room for politeness on stage. It has the word ‘lie’ in it.” — Dave Razowsky, 24th October 2015, Würzburg (DE)

While technically not true when spelled out, there is ‘lie’ in ‘polite’. Also, it’s not a coincidence that ‘politeness’ has the same stem as ‘politics’. We want truth on stage, not lies. We want story on stage, not endless discussions.

As improvisers, we are trained to make our partners look good. But sometimes it seems we’re mistaking this with making our partner’s characters look good, and that gives us the exact opposite result!

Stick to your point of view and don’t give in too soon. Your partner doesn’t want you to steal his or her point of view. Similarly, never sigh on stage, it’s a show of defeat and compromise. Compromises make everyone look bad.

Don’t let your good manners from the real world interfere with your scene work. They really get you nowhere on stage. 🙂