What is the value in improvisational techniques for actors? Isn’t it just a lot of “fun and games?” Sure it is, but it’s also a lot of hard work resulting in not only important acting technique but also transferable life skills.
In order to see Improv’s benefits to the actor it’s important to understand what it really is. In fact it is a very respected form of theater dating back many centuries. In the 16th century Commedia del arte was a wonderful example of improvisational theater. Today most of us are familiar with comedy or short form improv through the television show Who’s Line Is It Anyway? In some ways it is as much game show as it is anything else but it is also a good and clever example of short form improv. Over the years many talented actors and comedians have come from Improv theater companies such as Second City in Chicago and The Groundlings in Los Angeles to television shows that are an institution like Saturday Night Live.
It takes tremendous skill from the actor to stay in the moment and to actually create a scene that has a beginning a middle and and end and to be spontaneous. The technique and skills that are being developed in long form improvisation are the very skills that an actor needs to take on stage. Listening is imperative. Unity, clarity, simplicity, learning to explore impulses and instinctively react are all part of an actor’s arsenal and there is no better way to learn than through the use of improv. That’s why improv is woven into acting technique classes and used by directors when working with actors. These skills are not only an actor’s, they also are important life skills that translate into all human relationships, personal and business.
So that’s my answer to why improv when someone asks.