The Secret To Success Few Realize: Actor’s Improv Training

horizons 1-footprints-phil-koch

“Among other things I am an actor. Since I was three. I love it. As an actor there are many forms of training. Scene work, theater or on camera, commercials, audition, and improv. Believe me, there are many other approaches to this art and craft too. I mention this because there is an important concept I hope you will grasp.

The art of improv means spontaneous, extemporaneous, think on your feet, (comedic as is popularized by clubs  but there is also dramatic improv) acting entertainment. So let’s deal with what most people might know. The improv club. You go, have a few drinks or food and watch people respond to audience requests.

Topics blended together in unique ways, chosen out of a hat, so to speak. Actors then work together to entertain. A rule of improv, an important rule, in order to advance the premise and the scene is to say ‘Yes’ to whatever is offered. Say ‘yes’ and you have forward progress. Say no and the scene stops.

Live Love Laugh Celebrate And Enjoy

A lot of training goes into getting talent to go for the ‘yes’ right out of the gate. It keeps the ball rolling as long as the actors say ‘yes’. This is not uttered verbally, necessarily, while it can be, it is a concept.

A principle for good improv. Whatever is offered you you accept it, say yes to it, and add to it. Steer it. Your partner respond likewise. Together you keep it moving.

I am quote, a wonderful current talent, Tina Fey, who posted, back in 2011 her ‘4 Rules Of Innovation’ from her book ‘Bossypants’. ‘The first rule of improvisation is to AGREE. Saying “no” grinds invention, innovation  (and improv) to a screeching halt.

‘Obviously in real life you’re not always going to agree with what everyone says. But saying YES reminds you to respect what your partner has created and to start from an open-minded place. Start with a YES and see where that takes you.’

Wake Up And Live

‘The second rule of improv is to not only say YES, say YES, AND. In improv, you agree and then add something of your own. If your partner starts with, “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you just say “Yeah…” the skit has stalled. But if you respond with, “What did you expect? We’re in hell!” things keep moving forward.’

I’ll let you go find the other two rules, but I will nutshell it for you by briefly quoting her again. ‘Whatever the problem be part of the solution.’ and ‘there are no mistakes only opportunities. The next big laugh is around the corner.’  I love this and it fits so well with the philosophy and approaches I have been sharing in my blog.

I was reminded of this listening to friend and Casting Director, and expert, Amy Jo Berman implore actors to get improv training so that when things get switched up on them at an audition; when the sides (pages of script) are changed on them moments prior to going before the casting director, they are prepared, they are skilled, well trained talent and able to say ‘yes’. Nothing throws them!

Be Happy Smile More

I want to thank Tina and Amy for such great insight. I want to thank all those from ancient texts to modern day authors who have said the same thing, forever, in so many inspiring ways.

What we need to do is hear the message and then act on it. This is another reason why repetition is so necessary. Too often we miss what is really important!

As an actor in life we need to accept and affirm what is handed to us. Say ‘yes’ and add to it. Don’t let it stop there. We can steer it, just don’t resist it. Direct the energies in productive ways.

See it all the way through to the conclusion. Let go of preconceived notions of how things should be and go with the flow. Create some flow. Allow it to become better. Attitude is everything. Have fun and learn!

The more you practice these life skills the better you get at it, just as actors do practicing and rehearsing their craft. If you do it, repeat it, again and again, correctly, the logical outgrowth is you get better at it. You develop reliable, habitual skills. You evolve new neural pathways that serve you better.

Yes I Can

‘Start with a yes and see where that takes you’. Get in the habit of affirming life, of co-operating with others. moving forward, and adding value to all.

Keep moving it forward in positive ways. SO when life or someone throws you a curve ball you step in to bat. You aren’t thrown by changes.

Step up to the plate when life switches things up. Go for the run. Say ‘yes’ and move forward. Opportunity exists and the next big one is around the corner. Remember that! Set you attitude right and you can be, do and have anything. Live, love, laugh and say ‘yes’ to life! Celebrate! Rex Sikes

Enjoy each day more than the last!

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Horizons photo used with permission of Phil Koch.

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One thought on “The Secret To Success Few Realize: Actor’s Improv Training”

  1. If you really want to know about and improve your improvisation skills read/study Keith Johnstone. Probably the world’s most innovative and expert when it comes to Impro as the Brits call it and the title of one of Keith’s books.

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