Below is a sample issue of the Improv Illusionist free email newsletter. Visit the Subscribe page to get the latest improv news, tips, and physical improv ideas delivered to your inbox every month.
In this issue:
- Improv News: Interesting Links from around the Web
- Feature: Staying Safe (book excerpt)
- Recent Improv Illusionist content
- Your Question(s) of the Month
Improv News: Interesting Links from around the Web
Can a robot improvise? Researchers used “yes-and” statements derived from improv podcasts to create an AI chatbot. You can even try it out using the link in this article. The machines won’t take our stage jobs anytime soon, but this is kind of cool.
USC Viterbi Researchers Develop Improv-based Chatbot
The reckoning over systemic racism in the major improv theatres continues. This time it’s the Groundlings.
Groundlings Community Calls Out ‘Whitest Improv Institution’ in Open Letter
Rolling Stone is presenting a new video series where artists give tips and insights into their respective fields. For their first segment, they chose “Curb Your Enthusiasm” star Jeff Garlin to talk about improv.
Jeff Garlin Teaches ‘Improv 101’
(Every issue of this newsletter contains an exclusive or “subscribers-first” feature. Please pass it on to your fellow improvisers to encourage them to subscribe!)
Feature: Staying Safe (book excerpt)
I dropped a question into the worldwide improvisers Facebook group about injuries in improv. Within hours there were dozens of stories. Seems every performer has their share of scrapes, bruises, “furniture bites”, and worse.
Especially for the most physical performers, improv safety is a HUGE issue, and I’m a bit surprised it isn’t discussed more. My new book The Improv Illusionist (currently seeking publication) has a full chapter of tips on Staying Safe. Here’s an excerpt…
Improv allows you to create amazing illusions without the danger of the real thing. You can spend hours underwater without drowning. Improvised pyrotechnics won’t set your hair on fire. You can saw a lady in half with not one sharp object anywhere near the stage.
But make no mistake: ALL acting is dangerous, and unrehearsed, spontaneous acting is even more so. You have no set blocking or choreography to rely on. You’re negotiating entrances, exits, and stairs in low (or no) light. Tripping over chairs, curtains, and other players is a constant threat. Committing to a highly physical improv style makes it even more important to be aware of these hazards.
This chapter is full of safety tips I’ve learned, some the hard way. But it isn’t a complete list, and there may be other factors unique to your situation. If you belong to a theatre company, check with your stage manager for safety policies and warnings. Even if you’re a nomadic bar-prov troupe, elect someone to ask questions about the nightly venue.
Remember, YOU must be responsible for your own safety. If anything around you seems out of place, or gives you a bad vibe, speak up!
There are three major rules to live by. These aren’t improv “Rules” that can be broken to fit the scene. They’re safety imperatives for everyone to follow at all times:
- Be safe.
- Protect others (partners and audience).
- Protect yourself.
Like all theatre, improv is a form of energy transfer. The audience absorbs the vibe you produce. They’re mesmerized by high-energy physicality and attention to environment.
To do this well, you have to use as much body flexibility and movement as the scene calls for. If you want to show us a thrilling mountaintop rescue, or the misadventures of a new puppy, you have to be ready to go for it.
However, this commitment does NOT excuse you from staying in physical control at all times. Adrenaline, stage nerves, and the euphoria from an audience’s laughs can push you into dangerous moves. Be aware of this in advance and listen to your body. If you feel out of control, you ARE out of control.
Slow down. Breathe.
Know your limits. Ninja cartwheels are an awesome spectacle, but they have no place in the show if you’re going to sprain a wrist or fall into the audience. Give 100%, but keep hold of the reins!
(Stay tuned to future issues of this newsletter for updates on my book!)
Recent Improv Illusionist content
How to Avoid Improv Muscle Strains: It’s possible to pull a muscle “lifting” improvised objects. Learn how to avoid putting too much tension on your body when performing.
Improv Exercises List: I’ve compiled my favourite exercises for learning environment skills, object work, and physicality. Let’s work to grow this list!
Your Question(s) of the Month
(because I never seem to ask only one)
Have you ever injured yourself doing improv? Ever seen anyone else get hurt? What should improvisers know about safety?
Hit Reply and tell me your story.
See you next month!
P.S.: What do you think of the format of the newsletter? I’d love your feedback on what to include or how to include it. Reply to this email, or use the Contact form on the website. Thank you!