- What were some of the significant activities in improvisation and what did you learn from them?(you choose the ones that actually taught you something)
Over the course of the past several classes on improvisation, I have learned new, unique, incredibly interesting ways in which I can improve my improvisation skills.
An example of an improvisation activity – that really stands out to me – that we did during class was when we used three people who were the “know-it-all-3000-machine”. Three people sat on a bench and were asked a random and open-ended question. Each person could say one word at a time – in turn – to create a full sentence/sentences in answer to the question. This activity taught me two very important lessons about improvisation. Firstly, I learned that in improvisation one person cannot control the entire scene. They have to accept the offers of others, continue the scene without pause, and be listening to others in order to add on in an effective and valuable manner. I learned that I had an equal part in adding to the scene and having it go somewhere. I couldn’t say any more than one word at a time. I could not control what the person before or after me said, and I couldn’t have any preplanned lines, because I couldn’t have any idea where the scene would go. I had to be ready to go with and accept the offers given to me and quickly continue it. I also learned that I need to think fast and be spontaneous. I didn’t have time to sit and think about what I should say. I had to listen carefully to what the people before me said and say my own word without wait time. I had to say the first thing that came to mind – in other words, I had to say a word that felt right, belonged in the scene, would add to and continue the scene, and – when appropriate – create fun twists in the scene that would work well. Twists and changes, however, in improvisation scenes cannot be too extreme, because then the scene does not connect and appears to simply be unorganized, chaotic, and make no sense.
Another activity that we did during class that taught me a lot more about the art of improvisation was the “two-person-and-two-chairs-scene”. Person “A” was given a prompt – the very first line of the scene – and they had to quickly decide how they would deliver this line. They couldn’t control what person “B” would say or do next, but they were able to set the tone for the scene and give some context as to what was happening. From there it was teamwork, spontaneousness, creativity, and staying in character. With this activity, I really also learned how important it is to stay in character. Many of the scenes were very humorous, but if the actors broke character and started laughing it became far less so. When I stayed in character throughout the scene, even whilst others were laughing, it increased the quality and humor of the scene.
- What did you do that was NEW to you or CHALLENGED you in some way? (if it was new, please make sure to say what you got from this -OR- make sure to say how or why it challenged you)
Scenes with more than two people really seemed to present a challenge for me. Because I am such a person that I like to control, lead, and often dominate a project or scene, I found it strange and out of my comfort zone to become part of an ensemble and build off of other’s ideas, listen to and accept their offers, and not try to be the center of the scene. This isn’t because I want to have all of the attention of the audience for myself, but rather because I am so used to having to do all of the work for others because they do not do it. However, I’ve found that that is not the case in this class. All of my peers are highly capable of playing their own parts and adding value to the scene, and I think that it will be extremely valuable for me to learn to be a part of a scene instead of the only part of a scene.
This is a huge lesson that I have learned in this unit on improvisation and something that I really want to focus on and improve myself throughout the rest of this semester.
Being able to listen to others, accept their offers and add value to the scene and add to their actions, words and ideas creates a much more interesting, balanced, successful scene that people want to watch.
- What did you do that SUPPORTED your current knowledge or CONFIRMED/REINFORCED something you already knew? (make the connection for me. How did it support or confirm?)
Before coming to any of these classes I knew that improvisation was about being spontaneous, confident, and creative, and I’ve learned that those are true.
Being spontaneous is very important I believe because, without it, a scene is very dull, boring, unexciting, and terrible to watch. Actors that are spontaneous add a lot more interest to the scene and energy. They can add an entirely new level to a scene, make it more exciting, and new/unique/original.
Confidence, something that not very many 9th graders have a ton of, I have learned is very, very important in improvisation. Without confidence, an actor will not be able to be spontaneous, take risks, be loud, or be effective. They will not be comfortable taking risks, making mistakes, trying new things, and improving their improvisation skills.
Creativity, as I thought before, is also very important. Without creativity, an actor will be unable to create a new, original scene. The scene will likely be cliché, uninteresting, and dull. A creative person can take a simple prompt and create a unique, interesting, natural-feeling, developed scene. Development of a scene is incredibly important. Without it, a scene will be very surface-level, basic, and uninteresting for the viewer and actor.
I learned these things during the large variety of improvisation activities done in class, listening to my teacher, and even speaking with my peers. I learned and reinforced this knowledge a majority of the time because of the mistakes that I made. Criticism from my teacher, peers and myself were all extremely valuable in my experience, learning and improvement. Hands on learning followed by constructive criticism is the most effective way to learn for myself. That is why the activities done in class were so effective. For example, every activity in which we were given a vague prompt and no time to prepare is when I learned the most. Not only did I have to combat my urge to control the entire scene, but I also had to be creative and try doing and saying things that I have never done before and never would have. I realized quickly that overthinking things and trying to force the other actors to do what I wanted was very futile. Perhaps at the time, when I made mistakes and received feedback, I was a bit upset with myself for making these mistakes, but looking back on it, I would not have learned much at all if I hadn’t. People – particularly myself – do not learn much of anything when they succeed at something. They learn almost only when they make a mistake, which is why often success follows mistakes.
- CONNECT the improv unit to your current theatre/acting practice or something outside of theatre. (what connections can you make and what is the result of that connection in your learning?)
Over the course of this unit on improv, I have learned many things that pertain not only to the class, but also to life. Life itself is entirely improvisation. Every conversation with a friend, family member or teacher, every essay, every college application, every job interview, every day, every answer to every question that your Acting teacher asked you, everything, is improv. None of us have a script for our life, for every interaction, and for every event. We simply improvise. We have been doing so our entire lives.
In a class on improvisation, we can learn some very important lessons that we can apply not only in that class to get a good grade, but even in life, to have more successful, fulfilling lives. Some of the most important things that I learned this past unit, to be more successful in improv, include these things: become part of the ensemble, do not try to take over the scene, be spontaneous, be creative, accept offers, give my own offers when the scene isn’t going anywhere, create a unique character that adds value to the scene, keep the scene going, stay in character, listen to others before acting, have fun, and make mistakes that I learn from. These same exact lessons can and should be applied to how I live my life. I should become part of society and the world around me, don’t try to always be the center of attention and the person who does everything, take risks (don’t be afraid to do things others have been afraid to do), be creative by using my own ideas in my own life and actions to change a negative situation or continue a positive one, learn to accept and adapt when life throws me challenges or new things, whether difficult or easy, be myself so that I add value to my life and those of others around me by making small or big differences, don’t give up no matter the challenge, do what it is I set out to do instead of giving up or changing it because of difficulties, think about my words and actions before I say or do them and listen to others and understand a situation before acting or speaking, learn from all of my past mistakes, and have fun in life – live the fulfilling and happy life that I want to live.
Whether it be in math class understanding and solving the newest confusing circle theorem, in English class writing an entirely self-directed essay, on a track figuring out how to increase my speed, in dance learning a new movement, in a book discovering a new word, or simply having a conversation with a family member, we are all improvising, trying to do our best, learning, being ourselves, and changing the world in some small way. I think it’s wise to learn some tips and tricks that will help us in our quest to change the world. I think Acting and Naturalism is a very good class that is filled with these tips and tricks.
Some might say that these things are cheesy, and I just made them up so that I can get a good grade, but I genuinely believe them. There are lessons that we can all learn in the smallest of instances and the strangest of places (not that acting class is at all small or strange of course) that can and will completely change and better our lives if we simply pay attention, listen, learn, and implement them.
I myself, this past unit, and actually these past 14 years of my life, have tried to control everything and everyone. But frankly speaking, that is impossible. It is exhausting and unfulfilling. I cannot control or change everyone every situation. Only myself and how I decide to act or speak when things go wrong. A scene, as well as life, is uninteresting and exhausting if one person is controlling everything. Nothing new will happen, no one will learn anything, and no one will be particularly happy. I need to listen to others, accept their offers, give my own offers, continue the scene, take risks, and have fun. Because no one likes an overly controlling actor or person.
Overall, I have really enjoyed this past unit on improvisation. It has been filled with laughter and new lessons. I’m glad that I had the chance to really learn some things – in a new, exciting, fun, and interesting way – in at least one of my classes at school (hahaha). This isn’t just for the good grade by the way, but Acting and Naturalism is by far my favorite class.