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The Improv Illusionist Newsletter is a monthly update with a focus on the improv skills of environment, object work, and physicality in character and performance. Subscribe at the bottom of this page and you’ll get in-depth improv articles, games and exercises to try, resource links, and more direct to your inbox. (Check out past issues in the Newsletter Archive.)

AND when you subscribe, you also get my Learning the Improv Illusion email series! Here’s part one to get you started… (Or jump down to the subscribe button now.)

Learning the Improv Illusion Series

Hi there, I’m David Raitt, curator of Improv Illusionist.

First, welcome to this introductory series called Learning the Improv Illusion. The ideas and exercises in this series have been the foundation of my success as an improviser, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to share them with you.

I’m going to take you deep into a subject that doesn’t get enough attention in improv skills training, and that many performers don’t take enough advantage of.

When I think back on my most memorable improv moments, there are more that involved physical action than clever dialogue. In talking with other improvisers, I’ve found that this is very common.

Every improviser is different. You will either identify with my view of improv performance, or at some point, you will decide it doesn’t work for you and want to check out.

Either outcome is fine. Our art form needs diversity among performers, now more than ever.

But I hope you choose to stay. There’s a big payoff for you if you do.

This first article will give you a broad overview of what to expect as I help you explore what I call Physical Improv.

When you learn and apply these ideas, you’ll discover a whole extra dimension for your performance.

You will find more play and have more fun. You will dazzle audiences.

You’ll become a “spectacular” improviser (as in “interesting to look at” as well as “especially great”).

I’ve been performing, learning, and teaching improv for over 25 years. I’m going to share my best ideas with you in this series.

What is Physical Improv?

When I use that term, it’s easy to picture improvisers cartwheeling around the stage, lifting each other, or falling over acrobatically. These behaviours are definitely physical.

But I use a much broader definition…

Physical Improv is any technique that creates the ILLUSION of objects and environments for an improvised scene.

(By “scene,” I mean any improvised form. Physical Improv works with all styles of performance: comedy or drama, short-form or long-form, or any format you can dream up.)

You might know some of these techniques as “environment,” “object work,” “space work,” or even just “physicality.” There are many more, and some don’t involve movement at all. Even performers with disabilities or mobility challenges can do Physical Improv.

These techniques are all communication tools.

In playing a scene, you have ideas for where you are and what you’re doing. You and your fellow players use physical improv to communicate these ideas to the audience. The skills you use are the same, whether your characters are in a simple living room or on the bridge of a starship.

If you do it well, the worlds you create spellbind audiences. They cheer and wonder, “How did they DO that?”

Perfect your physical improv skills and you’ll draw the audience into the show. Give them locations, objects, and activities — something to SEE — and they will LOVE you for it. Even though there’s nothing actually there.

This is the Improv Illusion.

It’s not a Method

Improv is about as uncertain as performing gets.

It’s natural to want a method — a series of predictable steps for generating a result. (Start your scene like this. Then look for that. When that happens, do this to build on it. And so on.)

Methods provide a sense of control over uncertainty, which relieves fear.

However, what you’ll learn here is NOT a method.

I avoid methods for two main reasons…

  1. They can’t possibly cover every situation. If you become too reliant on a method, you may panic when it suddenly doesn’t work.
  2. Because a method uses the same steps, it will tend to generate similar results. You will eventually become bored by the lack of variety in your improv. (And so will the audience.)

Instead, think of this approach as more like a cookbook, with different recipes you can try. You’ll discover which ones you like, and which ones add a good “flavour” to your improv.

Or think of it as gathering a box of tools to use in any situation. For best results, though, you have to practice using every tool.

Physical Improv is a multiplier. With skill and experience, it gives you more options. It generates more ideas. It makes you more expressive. More involving. More entertaining.

It’s up to YOU

No matter where you are in your improv career — new or old, amateur or pro, student or teacher — good physical improv skills are essential.

But there are very few resources available to help you learn them. Believe me, I’ve looked.

It’s why I created Improv Illusionist.

The insights in this series will help you discover new creative possibilities for your improv.

Suggestion: Re-read this series and practice the exercises many times. You will make new discoveries each time you do. New insights will emerge as you gain experience!

This is NOT a “sales funnel” email series. There’s nothing to buy at the end.

My focus is on raising the art form for everyone by sharing important ideas.

Yes, I offer paid workshops and coaching. But I trust you to learn and try this work for yourself, and then make up your own mind about going further with your training.

I firmly believe in value-first. You’ll never be coerced to buy anything.

The next step is also yours to take.

If you want to come on this two-week journey into the Improv Illusion, click the button below, then enter your best email address.

Help me get better at Physical Improv!

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See you in your inbox.
— Dave

David Raitt - Headshot