How and where is Improvisation useful within a rehearsal process.

Convener(s): William Bowry 

Participants: Hanna Woolf, Laura Hooper, Fiona, Maryam Ouji, Vic Llewelyn. 

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

This discussion centered on the role ‘improvisation’ (defined as the process of spontaneously creating action without a script), has within a rehearsal period. 

It was clear that improvisation can be a powerful, explorative tool that can be effectively utilized within a rehearsal process.   All the actors, who participated within the discussion, believed that improvisation was a crucial and fundamental process within rehearsal. It allowed an actor to embody a character’s back-story, flesh out the identity of the character and give freedom from the constraints of a script.  Every well-conceived performance, utilizes improvisation at every moment, so it is naturally a crucial element to rehearsal.  It was agreed that almost every style of theatre could accommodate improvisation, from new writing to classical texts; it allowed a re-translation of the scene or script. 

However, in order for improvisation to be a successful and useful process, the actor must have a sense of trust and safety within the group he is working. They also must be trained in the skills and structures of improvisation.  Those mentioned included the: three-time rule, image is gone, search further, go shallower and always accept ‘yes’. It was conceded that improvisation is actually a revealing exposure for the actor and this must not be manipulated. 

If an actor feels unsafe within an environment, this is often due to a conflation of the actor and the character, at the fault of the director. Within improvisation, there is a symbiotic relationship between the actor and the director and there is a danger this can become abusive. An actor must be pushed to different boundaries (especially when grappling a difficult text), but this must occur in a protective environment. There must be clear parameters set, that an actor feels comfortable with; the danger occurs when an extremity of emotion strips the actor of the confidence to perform. The blurring between the reality of the actor and the reality of the scene/play can not be transgressed. 

Otherwise, improvisation is an incredibly useful tool for an actor to ‘play’. It utilizes their imagination, expression and explores the multi-faceted spectrum of performance.  However, it must occur within a environment of safety and confidence.