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About Improv

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Improvisation

Improvisation is the practice of acting and reacting, of making and creating, in the moment and in response to the stimulus of one's immediate environment. This can result in the invention of new thought patterns, new practices, new structures or symbols, and/or new ways to act. This invention cycle occurs most effectively when the practitioner has a thorough intuitive or technical understanding of the necessary skills and concerns within the improvised domain.

The skills of improvisation can apply to many different abilities or forms of communication and expression across all artistic, scientific, physical, cognitive, academic, and non-academic disciplines. For example, music, cooking, presenting a speech, sales, personal or romantic relationships, sports, flower arranging, martial arts, psychotherapy, the arts, and much more.

Explanation

Philosophically, improvisation often focuses on bringing one's personal awareness "into the moment," and on developing a profound understanding for the action one is doing. This fusion of "awareness" and "understanding" brings the practitioner to the point where he or she can act with a range of options that best fit the situation, even if he or she has never experienced a similar situation. The study of the skills and techniques of improvisation can strongly influence one's competence in business, personal life, and/or in the arts.

Improv Process

Improvisational theatre allows an interactive relationship with the audience. Improv groups frequently solicit suggestions from the audience as a source of inspiration, a way of getting the audience involved, and as a means of proving that the performance is not scripted. That charge is sometimes aimed at the masters of the art, whose performances can seem so detailed that viewers may suspect the scenes were planned.

In order for an improvised scene to be successful, the actors involved must work together responsively to define the parameters and action of the scene, in a process of co-creation. With each spoken word or action in the scene, an actor makes an offer, meaning that he or she defines some element of the reality of the scene. This might include giving another character a name, identifying a relationship, location, or using mime to define the physical environment. These activities are also known as endowment. It is the responsibility of the other actors to accept the offers that their fellow performers make; to not do so is known as blocking, which usually prevents the scene from developing. Some performers may deliberately block (or otherwise break out of character) for comedic effect -- this is known as gagging -- but this generally prevents the scene from advancing and is frowned upon by many improvisers. Accepting an offer is usually accompanied by adding a new offer, often building on the earlier one; this is a process improvisers refer to as "Yes, And..." and is considered the cornerstone of improvisational technique.

The unscripted nature of improv also implies no predetermined knowledge about the props that might be useful in a scene. Improv companies may have at their disposal some number of readily accessible props that can be called upon at a moment's notice, but many improvisers eschew props in favor of the infinite possibilities available through mime. As with all improv offers, actors are encouraged to respect the validity and continuity of the imaginary environment defined by themselves and their fellow performers; this means, for example, taking care not to walk through the table or "miraculously" survive multiple bullet wounds from another improviser's gun.

Because improv actors may be required to play a variety of roles without preparation, they need to be able to construct characters quickly with physicality, gestures, accents, voice changes, or other techniques as demanded by the situation. The actor may be called upon to play a character of a different age or sex. Character motivations are an important part of successful improv scenes, and improv actors must therefore attempt to act according to the objectives that they believe their character seeks.

 

 

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