Improvisation: An Uncomfortably Close Experience

by · August 8, 2012

The number one rule of improvisation is there are no rules.

This thought starts a rapid thumping of adrenaline pulsating through each cast member; they only have their imaginations to rely on. For anyone who has participated in theatre before, where there is a script, stage direction, and a feeling of comfort instilled in the actors, improvising is a daunting task. However, Mount Saint Mary College’s improv group, Improvocative, worked with Del Close and Charna Helpern’s Truth in Comedy book, which gave them the format to run their shows.

During each performance, the group presents a long-form of improv, called a Harold, which Close and Helpern themselves collaboratively created. The show begins with an opening game, such as Word Up, where the cast is given a topic from the audience and they are to form word associations spurred from the topic. This game will give the cast ideas for three upcoming scenes, which I will refer to as A1, B1, and C1. After these scenes are performed, there will be a group game, such as Authors. Authors is when four cast members enter the stage, taking on the personas of four different authors. The host of the game will intertwine the topic with the title of a book.  For example, if the topic was “cakes,” the host could say, “We will now hear an excerpt from the book, When Cakes Attack, presented by these four prestigious authors.” The four cast members choose their author and tell the story as say, Tennessee Williams would, or Stephanie Meyer. After this, the scenes will pick up again, becoming A2, B2, and C2, and will continue to tell their story. When these scenes are finished, or “edited,” there will be another group game, and then scenes A3, B3, and C3 will conclude the scenes and the Harold.

As people, we improvise everyday: whether at school, work, or talking with friends. We think on–the-spot of how to react to any given topic or situation. Improvisation as a form of acting, although more difficult, is basically the same idea. As Del Close said in Truth,

“Where do the really best laughs come from? Terrific connections made intellectually, or terrific revelations made emotionally.”

Sarah Fulton, class of 2013, is a public relations major from Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY.

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