WHAT IS IMPROV?
Improvisational comedy is a form of live theatre in which a performance is created in the moment, with players creating the characters, dialogue and action as they go.
A popular art-form in its own right, improvisation is also an important tool for writers, comedians and pretty much everybody. The requirement for building ideas with others requires keen listening skills, collaboration and creativity. Improvisers around the world have developed principles through shared experience which make those skills easier to learn and apply.
DISTINGUISHING SHORT-FORM AND LONG-FORM
Improvisation is one of the only art-forms divided into types on the basis of time. Simply put, Long-form improv uses scenes that are longer than Short-form improv. Whereas Short-form improv is often based around specific games e.g. speaking in one voice, party quirks etc., (which you might have seen on Whose Line is it Anyway), Long-form allows the scene to form over a longer time. Along with the time difference, the two types also hone different improv skills.
Long-form improv allows each scene to progress for longer, and scenes are often inspired by a single suggestion. Common long-form shows include improvised films and plays. Well-known improv formats include the Armando, Montage and the Harold. While there are as many ways to play improv as there are ideas to create, it can be useful to group types of play into Narrative, Grounded and Game of the Scene.
WHAT IS NARRATIVE IMPROV?
Narrative improv uses the tools of storytelling to tell longer, often intertwining narratives. This can take the form of the Heroes Journey or other story forms, and can result in formats such as the improvised movie or improvised play.
WHAT IS GROUNDED/SLOW IMPROV?
Grounded and slow improv puts the focus on the characters and their relationship. By slowing down, improvisers can focus on the tiniest of offers and can create meaningful dramatic scenes.
WHAT IS 'GAME OF THE SCENE'?
Originally developed by Del Close, Game of the Scene (GOTS) gained widespread prominence through the UCB (Upright Citizens Brigade), based in New York and LA. Game of the scene is a way to find the funny aspects of an improvised scene and to expand them to make the scene funnier.
As a result, GOTS scenes are structurally similar to many comedy sketches. GOTS is a quick and effective way to create comedy; it requires players to perform at the top of their intelligence (through honest reactions), creating vibrant, detailed scenes. Through the common language of GOTS, improvisers can 'get to the funny' more quickly, and can effectively collaborate to create great comedy in the moment.
Over the next few months my aim is to introduce performers around Oxford to the range of techniques, styles and performances that are capable using improv; to allow students to develop their own voice and style. Reading over this page I realise there is so much here and hope that it is not daunting. You don't need any experience to learn the skills of improv, and everyone has experiences, a point of view, and a creative flair to bring to the class and stage.