The Value of Acting Improvisation for Non-Actors

Acting improvisation classes have obvious value for actors of all styles and interests regardless of whether they are interested in seriously pursuing improvisation as form. Acting improvisation helps to develop the actor’s timing, ability to think on his or her feet and ability to make clear, deliberate choices quickly. An actor trained in acting improvisation is a better performer and particularly of asset on the stage.

Acting improvisation however is valuable training for a much broader range of people than just actors. Acting improvisation can be of significant help to writers, business people and anyone who needs to build confidence and trust when it comes to working with a team.

Acting improvisation enhances many skills. For one thing, acting improvisation training helps to eliminate the impulse to second guess oneself. There is no time, no opportunity in acting improvisation to wonder “what if I say the wrong thing?” – there is no wrong thing! Merely, one has to respond to and work with what is provided. As much as acting improvisation is a fun and often silly environment, this mirrors an important leadership skill – which is being able to solve problems within a given set of confines. Certainly we can all wish we had a bigger budget and more time, but we often don’t, so the best thing we can do is to accept our constraints and move on. Acting improvisation helps reinforce this idea and encourage people to do it with confidence.

Many people are also afraid of speaking up in professional or social environments for fear of being laughed at. In acting improvisation classes we’re all laughed at all the time – usually good-naturedly, but not always. Taking an acting improvisation class is an excellent way to become inured to laughter, to realize it’s not the end of the world, to take yourself less seriously and to understand that sometimes, being laughed at is good.

Writers in particular can benefit from acting improvisation classes. Improvisation can teach writers a lot about advancing plot, because so much of acting improvisation is about giving and acceptance. If your scene partners defines something as a parrot, then it is a parrot and you have to work with that – acting improvisation falls flat when it turns into bickering and rejection (think of cartoon characters arguing back and forth in a constant yes-no way). Acting improvisation techniques, when applied by writers to their characters can help them break out of stagnant scenes where the plot is unable to advance because the characters disagree. Disagreement is always possible in acting improvisation, but it must move forward as opposed to retracing over the same material.

Most acting improvisation schools have beginning classes or those specifically geared to non-actors for these very reasons. While acting improvisation classes can seem intimidating at first, they represent something we are all capable of doing – playing and laughing and creating stories out of the world around us. Through the skills acting improvisation emphasizes, it can also help improve out own stories – regardless of whether we are performers or creative artists or not.

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