Friday, August 30, 2013

The Introverted Improviser

Most people would think that to be an improviser you need to be outgoing, talkative, loud, bubbly and have boundless energy. Well, those things do help to some extent, but they’re not the whole picture.

I’ve always been on the quiet side. Don’t get me wrong – I love to talk – I just prefer talking to a couple of people rather than a whole bunch. I considered myself an extrovert because I’m interested in theatre and enjoy performing, and I think other people generally assumed I was an extroverted person because I’m chatty and friendly. It wasn’t until more recently I realised that I’m more on the introverted scale of being, and I’m learning to work this to my advantage.     

Everyone approaches improvisation differently, and everyone brings a unique skill set and energy to the stage. This is why group improvisation works so well, because together you can discover each other’s strengths, weaknesses and preferences – and turn this into something that people will pay to watch. 

Here are a bunch of reasons why being introverted can make you a good improviser:

  • Introverts are good listeners – being a good listener is an essential improvisation skill. It means you’re less likely to miss offers, and that makes your scene partner look good because you will honour everything they say.
  • You have an eye for detail – picking up on the little things in a scene will delight audiences. It might be an offhand comment from your scene partner, or an unusual movement. If you’ve seen it, the audience has probably seen it too and they’ll love you for noticing it.
  • You don’t have to be the centre of attention – embrace the “straight guy”. For each crazy offer, there needs to be an equally uncrazy offer so that every scene isn’t about aliens made out of chocolate pudding who decide that zebras need to wear spectacles, otherwise all their watermelons will turn blue (or something like that).
  • Introverts are more reserved – be the calm in the storm. Often improvising can tend towards mania because there’s so much happening on stage, but you can be the one to keep the scene grounded.
  • You tend to spend time in your head – creating space in scenes. People are led to believe that thinking is the enemy of good improvisation, but this isn’t true. Yes, you have to embrace spontaneity and be prepared to go with the flow, but you can also take your time. Slowing things down can often lead to improvising magic, and if you’re engaged in the scene and enjoying yourself, the audience will enjoy it too. 

As a kid I was shy and introverted. Taking classes and performing in theatre and improvisation means now I’m not so shy, but I’m still an introvert, and that’s okay. 

Just don’t expect me to talk to you after the show. 

(Kidding, I’d love to talk to you!)         

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