To improvise is to completely make something up on the spot, whether it be a song, a character, or in some cases, an entire movie. Improvisers create entire scenarios and shows from audience suggestion. Nothing is predetermined, and the performers must support each other’s reality through a course of scene work. Most notable improvised works include Christopher Guest’s movies Waiting for Guffman and This is Spinal Tap, as well as television shows “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “World Cup Comedy.”
Typically, Who Are Improv Performers?There is no one type of improviser. We come in all shapes and sizes and all ages. Legitimate actors often make good improvisers, as they have already had experience creating characters and performing in front of a crowd. However, one does not need to be an actor in order to be an improviser. There are also no age requirements when it comes to improvising. There are several youth troupes in the Valley as well as adult troupes. Children often make excellent improvisers, as they don’t tend to censor themselves onstage.
What people don’t often realize is that improv is not always funny. There are various types of improv, including Harsh, a New York-based troupe that does only improvised tragedy. And in many cases, coaches will tell you, “Don’t try to be funny.” There is a very popular book on improvisation titled Truth in Comedy, which bases its methods on the fact that the truth is funny. Play honestly, and the funny will come.
How Does One Become an Improviser?The best way to test your improv chops would be to attend a workshop or class. The Torch Theatre offers classes in longform improvisation and scenework, and short-form games and scenes are taught at Jester’Z at Theater 168. For those looking to give it a shot before committing to a class, there is a “Bingo Jam” following Galapagos’ first Saturday show at the Trunk Space each month. The Phoenix Improv Festival also offers workshops for those new to the improv world.
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