During a play, you may notice an actor have a silent second or a humorous addition to the scene you may not remember from before. Theatrical shows are live leading up to unplanned happenings. The cast and crew have to ready to improvise while they are in the moment. When actors are taking classes they are encouraged to include a level of Improv to their skills. An idea or suggestion is used to create a scene without a script. The actor is left to their wits which teaches them to read the room and scenario to keep the momentum going without pause.
The Improv Role
Improv in the Theater has many roles. Presentations are shown featuring an Improv style that has proven to never have a dull moment. It is also a technique used throughout a play that has an established script and storyline. The audience may not be privy to when an Improvising occurrence is happening. It is usually done in a nonchalant manner that is undetectable from the seats. Fellow cast members will notice the alteration as they have attended rehearsals for several weeks prior to the shows opening.
An actor has their work cut out for them. When the need arises for a bit of Improv, it can take them by surprise. They must keep their game face and continue the scene without a hitch. This can prove difficult as scripts may have some slips or trips. Forgetting a line is the most common reason an actor would have to use impromptu Improv. The actor must follow the Yes rule when this happens. To buy a brief minute to regain their line of thought, it is said to always agree. To Improv without changing the course of the story, simply go along with the previous line that was read.
Another example of improvisation on the stage is a physical mishap. Losing ones balance or walking into a piece of furniture can disrupt the plot if not handled with care. Some may choose to pretend it didn’t happen and resume without a second thought. In other instances, the actor will apply a small albeit funny method of Improv. Prop dropping, spills and wardrobe malfunctions are not unheard of. The staff diligently out smarts the problem before it reaches the viewers. Technical issues can be a little harder to disguise with Improv. When the doorbell chimes after it has been opened is not easy to explain. When this happens, it is best to ignore the errors while the stage crew scrambles in the back to correct it.
Unless a disastrous or catastrophic accident happens that can endanger the cast, it is safe to say Improv will brilliantly carry the show forward…. As they say, “ The show must go on”!
The next time you are in the audience, you may notice an Improv moment or two. Understanding how it happens when you are under the lights will ensure you enjoy the performance in all of the glory we know as the Theater.