An improv scene is a space where, by proxy, you are able to explore any real-life relationship or interaction you can conceive of, as well as the imaginary and absurd.
The unique power of improv in this capacity is the way in which, by putting on a character in an invented scenario, normal social codes fall away. There are no stakes, so you are unrestricted in your interactions.
The more practiced you become as an improviser, the less you censor yourself, and the less you censor, the more unique and insightful your scenes will be.
‘’When you trust your fellow improvisers, responding spontaneously to their offers, an audience can recognise shared experience of particular behaviours and humour inevitably ensues.’’
There is so much humour to be found in finding truth in the dynamic you establish between characters. Audiences delight in seeing a familiar relationship materialise onstage. You can explore what happens when you tell an acquaintance ‘’I am absolutely detesting this conversation’’, Or ‘’If you died I wouldn’t grieve’’.
Much loved Chicago improviser and coach Jason Chin once said: ‘’it’s our emotions that tell us who we are.’’ When our Level 2 teacher passed this bit of wisdom on to us, it struck and stayed with me.
In everyday life it feels like we most often try to avoid our emotions. I tend to reject negative emotions, feeling ashamed when I’m not in control of them. In reality, the way you react to people, situations and events tells you so much about your values. Examining them, rather than avoiding, is such an important pursuit.
Improv is a rich and safe context within which to explore this idea, with other people, in a way that reveals insights more profound than those gathered through a normal conversation. Using the mask of a character, again, you have the freedom to say things you might not say just being you.
In improv we often talk about the significance of finding ‘the truth’. This doesn’t require characters or the situation to be realistic; in fact they can be utterly absurd.
It is in the power of moments in which characters begin exploring something that connects to a universal human experience that something special occurs.
Perhaps the most beautiful thing about these scenes is that they are ephemeral.
They have occurred spontaneously, and never will in quite the same way again. It is only the performers and the audience who get to share in it. It’s a theatrical phenomenon unique to the form, and I’m addicted.
Ella Lawry is an Arts student living in Melbourne. Hailing from Adelaide, her passion for theatre was kindled by six fabulous years with Urban Myth Theatre Company. A love of singing led her to cabaret, performing in the Adelaide Cabaret Festival as well as Gospo Enterprises’ Gospolicious (2014) and Cabaret and Cupcakes (2015). For the 2016 Adelaide Fringe, she devised and directed STRANGER STRANGER, an immersive, interactive show in a Laundromat. Always favoring comedy, it has now become a focus. She performed in the Melbourne Uni Law Revue and is directing the 2017 production, did a sketch show in the 2016 Melbourne Fringe and this year devised and performed comedic play You Blew It. (Adelaide Fringe). She took up improv at LMA last year, where she merrily remains.