Life is a stage – What improvisational theater is about?
Following the quote above, I would like to introduce you to the topic of improvisational theater and its further development into theater sports. We play on a stage, called Earth, every second of our life. And every day we improvise. So the concept of life theater is here, we just don’t pay attention to it. Here I would like to share my experiences of improvisational theater. Believe me or not but it has a great value.
First of all, you may wonder what is improvisational theater is. Improvisational theatre, also known simply as improv, is a form of performance art. While this definition is taken from Wikipedia, it doesn’t give much of added value. Broadening it, improvisational theater is a type of performance act, where actors do not have a script or any other tips prepared before they come on the stage. Performance is made right at the moment of acting. You can get suggestions from a narrator or audience itself.
Improv is general term. Throughout the time other formats came into place. Particularly, the format or brand I have most of experience with is theater sports. Theatresports™ is an improvisation show created by Keith Johnstone in which two teams of improvisers compete against each other for points. To earn points, each team must challenge the other to a game or play. The Judges or the audience then award points to each team to determine the winner of that challenge. During the Game, as in any sporting event, players must be careful not to get a penalty. At the end of the evening, points are tallied to determine the champion of the show. You can get more information on the official International Theatersports Institute
There many variations on theater sports rules. Those vary even per country where the plays take place. Each game has its own ‘rules’ and formats. You can introduce some additional guidelines; however there are some principles, which actually make it so exciting:
1. No blocking
In Theatersports® blocking is an actor rejecting or denying what has been said by the person before. Blocking prevents the performance from making any progress. For example, is John says that you are a monkey, you cannot say “No!”. Then you will need to play as monkey.
2. Do more, talk less
Each of your dialog lines can be regarded as a call to action. Say where you are going to eat and then start walking or eating. Don’t forget to use mimics.
3. Make mistakes
Every time you make a mistake, don’t be upset. Improv is about making mistakes and then playing around them. Finding new characters or locations is always better than being stuck.
There are more but these three I find the most relevant for people just starting to improvise.
Personally, I have been doing Theatersports for over three years now. Since I am not a professional actor, it was really interesting experience. When I have just started, I could not believe my eyes on what I saw on the stage. Some the scenes have been funny, some ridiculous, sometimes it was hard to understand what is going on the stage. Interesting part starts when you step onto the stage. You have no idea of what to do and you still try to consider what is appropriate to do.