In today’s audition room, improv has quickly gone from a useful tool to a requirement. More and more casting directors are looking for “actors with great improvisation skills.” This is no longer just needed when auditioning for the next Seth Rogen film. It’s regularly asked for in even the first steps of an actor’s career: commercial auditions. The great upside is, improv skills will not only help all your auditions, but also aid you in many facets of your daily life. Here are five principle benefits improvisation will give you in both your auditions and in life.
1. Improv builds confidence. First impressions are the most important. If you can walk in and out of a room confidently, you’re already on your way to success. So why do so many people have trouble with confidence? Maybe an easier question is: Why are so many people afraid of heights? Most likely because, the higher we get, the further we fear we will fall. Imagine you are suddenly at the top of a circus tent, on one of those little bitty acrobat platforms used to leap to the swings. Now, what if, instead of shrinking away in fear, you take the risk and simply leapt forward. Now, instead of falling flat on your face, you catch the swing and performed beautifully. That’s what improv will teach you to do. Improv takes you to the ledge of the script and gives you the confidence to leap off.
2. Risk, risk, risk, again. OK, you took a risk and you jumped off that little platform. Your arms spread and your hands grab that acrobatic swing, but just before you pull off an amazing performance, your grasp slips and you hang with one arm. But now you know how to grab on again with both arms. There’s a power, which allows you to pick yourself back up and try again. Knowing how to improvise gives you this power so your audition performance will not fall flat. Improv skills are there to get us back on the swing. It makes us stronger and smarter.
Knowing you can use your improv skills anytime gives you the freedom to take chances. When you take a risk that others are scared to take, that’s when an exciting performance occurs. When you’re no longer scared of falling, there is no limit to where you can soar.
3. Say yes, be open. One of the key rules of improv is “Yes and.” We’ll get to the “and” in a moment, but lets dive into “yes.” Human beings are genetically set up to say no. It’s a protective instinct. We often default to hunching over, avoiding eye contact, and responding to questions with “Let me think about that,” “Maybe,” and “I’ll get back to you.” There is no time to hide in improv or in an audition. In order to move quickly on our feet we must be open and ready to say yes. Improv will teach you to be both physically and mentally open and accepting to whatever is coming your way. Ask any coach and they’ll agree that you can’t catch the ball and score a touchdown if you aren’t open.
4. Make strong choices. Now let’s talk about the “and” part of “Yes and.” So many young actors worry about being “right” for the part. So often they (and everyone else) spend most of their time trying to fit into a mold of what they think others want. The reality is, people (and producers) often don’t know what they want. They want you to show them what they want. Improv teaches us to quickly make big, strong choices. When you say yes to whatever is presented to you, whether it be a scene partner or a script, and then build upon that with strong choices, you will inspire excitement and ideas in others.
5. Improv prepares you for fast changes. I advise actors at 3-2-1- Acting Studios to always “Expect the unexpected,” and go with the flow. Things change quickly in auditions and on set. You are not reading for the part you prepared. Your role gets changed. You came to read for the bad guy and you end up reading for the good guy. With improv skills you can take all the fast changes in stride and know how to handle it all with confidence.
If you leave a room making the director excited and inspired, they will want more of that feeling…and that’s when they hire you.
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