Have you ever wanted to discover something about yourself? A secret talent of some sort? Do you like to make people laugh? Are you a quick thinker? If so, improvisation acting is the thing for you! Just to be clear, we all know what improvisation is, right? It’s basically acting without rehearsing for it. On Mar. 14, The Foster Kids of the Louisville Improvisers performed an improv show, hosted by Chris Anger, (of the Louisville Improvisers) at the Local speed. Upon arrival, guests were led to a small set-up, where the show was to take place.
The shows host, Anger, is a very good-natured man with a pleasant sense of humor; he moved to Louisville from the Bay Area 15 years ago, and says he has enjoyed his time with the Louisville Improvisers ever since. As the show began, Anger explained that his improv partner couldn’t be there, due to having the flu. So, he did what any professional improviser would do: he improvised.
Anger called five volunteers up on stage with him, and had them perform a series of acts. Obviously the volunteers didn’t know what he was going to ask them to do, so they had to learn to improvise, in front of a small audience. They all did a great job. A lot of people might have frozen in panic and wouldn’t have been able to think of anything on the spot but, through laughter, the group managed to entertain not only the audience, but themselves.
The activities Anger had planned included the classic “one-word story” game in which all five volunteers, and Anger, were to state a whole story with only one word each, per round. They also participated in a scenario game where one actor would act out the environment, and the others had to go along with it in order to complete the scene. Then they played the alphabet game–two people had to have a conversation using the first letter of the next alphabet letter. Throughout the show, Anger offered instruction to both the volunteers on stage and the audience, so for those of you who really do want to practice improvising, the following tips are for you.
Some “Dos and Don’ts” of improvising:
DO: make assumptions; you don’t have time.
DON’T: Try to be funny, clever or interesting; it won’t work.
DO: have chemistry with your partner; it’s not about winning, it’s about the connection [between the two actors]. It’s not about how funny you are, but how well you can work together.
DON’T: Think. If you’re thinking, you’re not listening.
DO: Go with your first thought. “Your first thought is your best thought.”
DON’T: Ask questions. It doesn’t add information.
“Improvising is the joy of not knowing. It lets you discover stuff and add to it, like being on a date,” Anger joked as he began his routine. This was when he motioned for the five fearless individuals to stand before him. “You won’t be judged… out loud,” he assured them. “If done properly, it can be funny,” Anger promised the crowd. But over and over he stressed–so this is an important tip–“don’t TRY to be funny, clever or interesting.”
While playing the alphabet game, (which for some reason always centered around a dog or cat), Anger admitted that while teaching younger students, the common theme was always a sibling or food, “but every story has it’s own logic,” Anger stated. This old game got a laugh out of both the audience and the actors participating in the game. The experience was very different from seeing an actual comedy show because this was unrehearsed and performed by people just having fun. During the alphabet game, the two actors would frequently get stuck, especially on difficult letters such as Q or Z. Anger offered up a brilliant tip during these times: “When in doubt, name the person!” Of course. They had introduced themselves earlier but I sure didn’t remember their names. Nobody would suspect a false name used as an improv. So when one of the participants became stuck on the letter K, he began his sentence with “Katie.” I don’t know if that was actually his partner’s name, but he sure did improvise well!
Occasionally during the show, Anger would scan the audience to ask a question to begin the improvising, such as a number or a letter. I, in my awkwardness, was sinking in my seat every time because I don’t particularly enjoy speaking in front of people, which is why I realize that improvisation acting is not for me. Anger confirmed this when he said, “You want to be seen and heard.” So for those of you who enjoy the attention, here’s hoping you get a career in improvising.
At the end, Anger encouraged the audience to try improvising on their own. It could potentially be useful for real life situations like being on a date. “It’s not hard, I swear,” Anger promised before ending the show. Afterwards, one of the participants, Christina Langdon, explained her feelings about being on stage without knowing exactly what was expected of her, “I was nervous, but it was fun.” Audience member, Mary Vittow, explained that she received emails from entertainment shows offered in Louisville and was curious to see what improv was like; her thought: “it was very interesting.”
The Louisville Improvisers hosts monthly shows at The Bardstown Theater; the next show is scheduled for Mar. 22. You can also like them on Facebook, listed under Louisville Improvisers.
Photos by Eiman Zuberi