Using Improvisation in your Act

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From time to time we have all had some situation come up in the course of the day or in the middle of a performance that completely catches us off guard. How we get out of this with our dignity in tack is by quick thinking on our feet. This is known as Improvisation. Now lets go a bit further. What if we were to practice getting into situations where there was no script. Could we handle it?

One of the best examples of this was a performance I saw last year at Vent Haven ConVENTion. A young man of about 12 or 13 was on stage for open mike. I’m sure he had a well prepared performance, but once he got on stage absolutely nothing went right for him.

Many adult performers would have had a meltdown. Right out of the barrel, the young man’s sound track malfunctioned. For just a very few seconds the young fellow paused, thinking that the sound tech would get the situation under control. Within about 15 seconds the young performer figured out that this might be one of those times when there was no quick fix to the problem.

Instead of having a come-a-part, the young man started up with a dialog that was neither pre-planned nor prepared, but was wonderfully delivered with great skill. He immediately started discussing with his puppet all about the incompetence of sound people and their lack of ability to do their jobs effectively. The puppet joined in on this discussion.

If you had been there you would have thought that this was a prepared script. The boy never lost a beat nor did his composure slip. At the same time, none of his new unrehearsed dialog ever became too abusive towards the people trying to fix the problem. It was all done in great humor and the audience absolutely loved it.

I learned a great deal from this young man. First, I learned that you must always have a plan in mind for what to do when (not if) things don’t go according to plan. Have some little backup in place that might almost be like a backup script so that you can roll straight into the reserve topic the second things go bad.

At this years conVENTion, if the young man is there again, I will almost be tempted to go to the sound man and bribe him to mess up again just to see if this young man still has the ability to pull off what he did last year.

The bottom line is this. If you are prepared for something to go drastically wrong, it probably won’t. If you are not prepared there just seems to be a much higher probability that it will.

Either way you come out looking far more professional if you are ready for the problem to occur and deal with it the second it happens. That is as they say the difference between men and boys, except in this case it was the boy who taught many of us “oldsters” the way it should be done.

Thats all for now folks, we will talk again real soon.

Keep on venting.

Steve and JET

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