Reinvigorate Your Improv

We recently began a new Wednesday Drop-In class at our theater, CSz Sacramento.  The class is open to all levels, features a variety of games, and has attracted new students who have previously only played or studied at other theaters.  I’ve really been enjoying the opportunity to play with these new folks; it’s been a great opportunity to make new friends, share laughs, and learn.  Overall, the experience has brought a certain reinvigoration to my improv, which has been now been part of my life for almost 25 years.

Often when people pursue a hobby or career for a long time, they might encounter periods of stagnation, loss of interest, burnout, etc.  So I thought I’d share some tips I think can help people avoid, manage, or overcome such down moments.

Get Out Of You Character Comfort Zone

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I’ve observed over the years that many improvisers have a “comfort zone” of character types they endow frequently.  One way to freshen up your improv is to push yourself outside your character comfort zone by exploring character types you don’t often endow or have never endowed.  To figure out those gaps you can either engage in some self reflection or simply ask team mates “What’s a type of character you don’t see me play or have never seen me play?

Explore A New Type of Improv

There are many types of improv to explore, and trying other types can help you grow.  On a broad level, if you mostly perform short form, maybe explore some long form.  And vice versa (and maybe take a look at this blog entry first).  If you typically do story based, narrative long form, maybe explore pattern based, thematic long form.  And vice versa.

Invent Something New

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Develop a new game or create a new long form format.  For the ComedySportz Sacramento Main Stage team I typically devote at least one practice a year just to inventing new games.  During shows we also have a game, Game-O-Matic, that requires the players to invent a new game on the spot.  Within our Shower Thoughts long form team we often try new formats, some derived from existing ones.  For example, our last show included a new format, Biopic, about the life of a made up famous person that we developed from our Mockumentary format.

Play With New People

Improvisers have different styles, visions, and skills.  Playing with new people is both enjoyable and rewarding.  Once upon a time I played racquetball.  If I played opponents who were equal or lower in ability, I grew bored.  But when I played opponents who were better or who played with a different style, I felt challenged and improved my own play.

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Take Some Time Off

Sometimes it can help to take some time off.  Stepping away from an activity can sometimes reignite our passion for that activity and result in growth.  We often think that growth is a gradual, continual process.  But in some cases, growth occurs in discrete increases with interspersed plateaus.  Over the years I’ve observed several improvisers whose ability jumped suddenly after taking some time off.