Improvisation is sometimes the kind of exercise that can bring actors to tears. Whether you find it stressful or easy, here are six easy steps you can take to improve your general improv game.
1. People watch
Whether its a conversation that's attracted your eye on the tube, street or at home, subtly have a quick study not of what the people involved are saying, but how they're saying it, their body language, their tone when talking to the other person. Noticing these small details will allow you to understand how different characters behave and can be applied to your own acting!
2. Listen to your partner.
A scene will often 'go stale' if the people involved are not responding genuinely to each other. Improv is all about teamwork and the relationship you have with each other. The better the relationship, the better the scene will be to the audience.
3. Use 'yes, and...".
When your partner tells you something in an improv scene, accept it and then add something to the conversation. If you're partner starts by asking you why you've come to a party dressed as a pineapple, don't tell them that you think they're seeing things. Ask them why they're the only one who hasn't come dressed as a giant piece of fruit and that you have a spare costume in your car if they need it. Scenes where actors deny what their partners are saying often go dry very quickly and offer nothing for the audience. It's also a good way to annoy your partners.
4. Don't necessarily try to be funny.
Sure, comedy is great, but one person trying to make the audience laugh often alienates the others on stage.
5. Accept your mistakes.
Like any learning process, you will make mistakes. It's how you learn. Don't beat yourself up if you forgot a key rule of improv or your scene wasn't particularly good. Make some general notes for yourself and put it behind you. Next time you get up to improvise, treat it like a fresh start and be positive.
6. Try an improv or acting class or try at home!
Getting good at improv is simply a case of practice, practice, practice. Improv is a central part of the learning process at most drama schools or in general acting classes. Until then, you can always practise at home. Have someone you live with give you a location, relationship and topic of conversation then get improvising!