Improv Etiquette

by EvanJPalmer

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When my friends and I practice our improv techniques out of class, and away from the stage, it can be great fun. It can also put you in a weird vibe because people act differently when there’s less pressure. I guess because it’s a more relaxed environment.

Here are a couple of observations that I think will help keep everyone on track when there are no teachers or directors keeping everything rolling along.

1) If you’re in the audience, pay attention
It’s respectful to watch the people on the ‘stage’ even if there’s no physical stage there. If you’re chatting or not looking at them, it can be distracting for them and throw them off. Also, if you pay attention you can give useful notes at the end.

2) No joking from the audience
DId someone miss an hilarious pun? Feel the need to bust a joke real loud to get a laugh? Please don’t. Like in (1) it might throw the players off and doesn’t acheive much.

3) Don’t laugh at people’s mistakes
If someone missed an offer, or just walked through a mimed table and didn’t realise. Please let it slide. Depending on who you practice with, they might like a note on it after the scene, but try to hold it until then.

4) Don’t break character
I find that when I’m practicing with friends, I tend to break character pretty easily. I laugh, or just speak to another player about what my intent is. That’s not so good. Even though the audience are your friends, if you’re going to practice, you should try your best.

5) No blaming
In a more relaxed environment it’s easy to blame someone out loud – in oppose to your inside thoughts. By that I mean, during or after the scene, saying something like “how did you miss my offer?” or “you didn’t stick to your character”. I’m a massive fan of giving your peers notes, but they should be constructive and blame free.

Probably try not to blame people with your inside thoughts either – I think that’s how you get brain blisters.

6) No excuses
Before or after a scene, it’s easy to say “oh, I can’t do this” or “I’m really bad at physical stuff”, or “I can’t mime” or, “that sucked because I’m tired” etc etc. I don’t think that’s a worthwhile thing to do/say because you’re either setting yourself up for a failure, or distracting people from your actual performance. Basically it’s unconstructive, and lowers the bar. We should keep the bar high and always try our best.

Often I watch scenes that people think are rubbish, and make excuses about, and it kinda taints an otherwise cool scene.

Actually, I think a lot of those points are worth considering in real life context too.

I hope this post doesn’t read as too negative. I think they are points worth considering to keep an excellent practice session excellent.

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