How to Get Content into Improvisation By David Shepherd
|David Shepherd in the moment.|
There are three sources available for improving improvisational content: the spectator, the player, and the producer.
(1) The spectator: Go to an audience that already has something to say – or that needs to be said for them. When you improvise for people who have something on their minds besides television, it’s easy to elicit suggestions relevant to that group of people at that moment in time.
|Audience at Compass, 1955.|
Alternatively, train the audience by presenting models of the kinds of suggestions you want, and make clear that you will only accept the best suggestions.
|Audience suggestion guidelines for David's Responsive Scene radio show - 1972.|
(2) The performer: How much does a player know about being a surgeon or a prostitute? If the performer knows nothing about these professions, empathy is everything. Play your own instrument, tuned to the key of surgeon or prostitute. How much can you feel? The fuller the feelings, the fuller the character, as well as the content.
(3) The producer: The producer can choose a theme for an entire improvisational performance, such as “Fathers” or “Father’s Day” or “Revolution and Independence” for July Fourth. The producer can also single out the suggestion of a single player or spectator to be used, or the topic might be a consensus of the audience or players, solicited by the producer.
|Audience member offers suggestion for "2 Bit Poem" format.|
© Group Creativity Projects 1984
Michael Golding is a writer, director and improv teacher. He can be contacted for workshops, festivals and private consultations at firstname.lastname@example.org. Michael participated in the evolution of the Improv Olympics & Canadian Improv Games. Artistic director of the Comic Strip Improv Group in N.Y. & created the Insight Theatre Company for Planned Parenthood, Ottawa. He is a faculty member at El Camino College in Los Angeles, working with at-risk teens and traditional students. He wrote and co-produced the documentary "David Shepherd: A Lifetime of Improvisational Theatre" (available for free on YouTube). His book, Listen Harder, a collection of essays, curriculum and memorabilia on improvisation and educational theatre, is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and CreateSpace. Michael holds a BFA degree in Drama from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts & an MA degree in Educational Theatre from NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education & Human Development.