Weren’t Your Scared?

Recently, someone asked me if I ever got stage fright when doing improv. I have to admit, when I started it was scary. After all, I had to make stuff up on the fly. There’s no script to fall back on. What if I don’t know what to say?

One of my earliest improv teachers, Tom Soter, used to say, we’re all improvising all the time and he’s correct. People don’t have lines written for us in advance, memorized and ready to deliver on cue. We’re all just making it up as we go along. Certainly, we do write ourselves dialogue when we want to say something important, but since other people don’t have the script, those scenes often go off in unexpected directions. Life might be improvised but not everyone says “Yes And.”

Working with scripted material is great fun, especially if it is well crafted. Excellent dialogue is a joy to act. If it’s not great, it can be a rewarding challenge. Not always of course, but you do what you can. Even with the best script it’s possible to forget lines. Being able to improvise can help, but like a backup parachute, you’re glad to have it but hope to never use it. That sounds a bit dramatic but we’re talking about acting after all.

One of the wonderful things about improv is you can never forget your lines. Or blocking. If you just listen to and respond to your scene partner, you’re all good. You might not be funny, but that’s something else entirely.

Performing improv is essentially play. Kids play all the time but eventually we’re taught that play is frivolous. There are many adult games but very few have the pure joy of doing improv. Play is fun. Children are rarely afraid of play. Frightened of bullies maybe, but not play.

It seems I may have digressed from stage fright, which was what I began this with. Okay, once you have the basics down for improv, there is no reason to have stage fright. Unless you have to sing. Oh, you LOVE to sing? Must be nice. I’ll be having a panic attack while you croon.

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