This week, I finished my 4-week improv class at the PIT – People’s Improv Theatre. I signed up for the Level Zero – The Joy of Improv class, because, truth be told, Improv TERRIFIES me. The Level Zero is a no-pressure, introduction class, with no performance. Since Level One (and higher) is 8 weeks long, and has a performance at the end, I thought Level Zero would be perfect for my skill and confidence level.
Improv has always really intimidated me as a performer, because I have always felt a lot of pressure to be funny, and I’m not usually good with thinking on my feet. Even as a child, playing make-believe with my friends, I always said, “Let’s pretend….” rather than just jumping in and pretending. It was my way of making sure we were all on the same page about what we were going to do before we actually did it. In improv, you don’t get that option. You’re given a suggestion, a prompt, a rule, whatever, and you jump in and start saying stuff. Well, but, what if nobody else is on the same wavelength as me, and I look like an idiot? Or what if I can’t figure out how to jump in and riff off of what somebody else did or said? Or what if…. You see? Big, scary What Ifs all over the place. So, I signed up for the beginner level class.
Over the 4 weeks, we did a lot of different games and exercises, some of which I remembered from high school, and most of which I really enjoyed. We talked about the idea of having each other’s back, trusting yourself, and just having fun. We talked about how comedy comes from truth, and how if you think something is funny, chances are somebody else does, too.
I’m still nervous about improv, but I am better about trusting myself to go with my instincts, and see what happens. And I plan to take Level One in the coming weeks. I think that my training from Level Zero will allow me to enter Level One with more confidence, and have more fun while I’m learning.
I’ve come to the conclusion that Improvisation should be an integral part of every actor’s training. Not because everyone should aspire to a career as an improviser, and star on the next iteration of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” But because improvisation training is applicable to everything you do as an actor. When I say it should be integral to every actor’s training, I don’t mean that every student in an Acting program needs to take one semester of beginning-level improv as part of their degree requirements. I mean every student in an Acting program needs to take one semester of sequential improv training per year as part of their degree requirements. And professional actors who aren’t in school — GET YOURSELF IN AN IMPROV CLASS. Even if you don’t consider yourself an “improviser,” improv training will help you so much in your acting career. It teaches you to trust your instincts, be confident in yourself as a performer, and work well with other people. I look forward to starting my next class, and building on the skills I’ve already learned. Maybe I’ll see you in class? 😉