This Is An ACTOR’S IMPROV EXERCISE You Can Do At Home

Great actors know the key to success is consistent daily work on the craft of acting. But some areas like improvisation normally involve a scene partner, and therefore are harder to practice on your own. Today I’m going to share an Improv Exercise for Actors you can do from anywhere and all by yourself. I’m also going to include three additional variations for added difficulty and explain how each will connect back to help you become a stronger improvisor.

HOLD IT RIGHT THERE! 

If any of you are hesitant about practicing this exercise because you fear improv, first of all, you are a not by any means alone in this feeling. Let me take some weight off of your shoulders for a second. Check out this post by Dearing Studio owner Leeann Dearing. In this post, she details her own struggle with improv and offers some great advice as to why- if you are in the same boat- you are over stressing.

Okay- lets crush this exercise.

Today’s Improv Exercise for actors is called 5 Things. The simple setup goes like this:

Give yourself a topic, then quickly name 5 Things related to the topic.

Example – 5 Things at a birthday party. Food, drinks, presents, kids, bouncy house.

That’s it. Simple. Doing this a few times per day will immediately strengthen those improv muscles. But if you’re like most actors striving for greatness, this won’t be enough. You want more weight to get biggaaa strongaaa Improv muscles!

So now lets take that simple exercise and add three variations for added difficulty.

#1. The logical move – In this variation, rather than five random things connected to the topic, let yourself visualize the first thing that comes to your mind and then base the next answer off of what you see. Here’s an example of the Logical Move using visualization-

Birthday Party: Cake, icing, candles, flame, making a wish     

In this example you can see – cake came from birthday party and from visualizing the cake the other answers are right there – icing, candles, flame, making a wish.

The logical move- Connection to performance

As actors we sometimes overlook great moves that are logical and sitting right in front of our face. This occurs when we haven’t taken the time to visualize our environment which we must do to ground ourselves into the reality of the scene.

#2. The bold move – This next variation builds on the first as you will begin with logical choices, then suddenly make a giant shift using an improv tactic called A to C, which I’ll explain in just a bit. Here’s an example of the Bold Move using the A to C tactic:

Birthday Party: Cake, icing, candles, flame, making a wish, Robin Williams.

In this example Robin Williams is a Bold Move because he doesn’t fit into the logical and predictable visualization. This bold may appear random but the process to get there was our A to C tactic. Here’s how A to C works.

A is connected to the topic, B is connected to A but moves away from the topic, C connects only to B.

So here – A or MAKING A WISH connects to birthday party, B or Genie is connected to Making a Wish but unconnected to birthday party, and then finally C or Robin Williams is a logical connection to Genie.

The bold move- Connection to performance

As actors we can tend to play it safe with the choices we make. An creative bold choice that’s connected to the scene will add a refreshing splash of spontaneity to your work.

#3. Saying YES to the Bold move – Building on the first two, today’s final variation explains how to use a bold move by executing another improv tactic called “If this is true, what else is true?” Here’s an Example:

Birthday Party: Cake, icing, candles, flame, making a wish, Robin Williams, Walt Disney, Albert Einstein, Abe Lincoln, Jesus Chirst

In this final example we connected Robin Williams back to a birthday party by asking an IF/THEN question. If Robin Williams, a beloved celebrity who has passed away is in attendance at this party, what other beloved historical figures might also be at the party?

Saying “YES” – CONNECTION TO PERFORMANCE

Improv is such a fun art form but when we don’t know how to handle a bold move our scenes can end up in a place called crazy town and trust me, that’s a place that no audience wants to go to. This exercise will help you develop the skills needed to ground an unexpected bold move into the imagined reality of the scene.

Ok, there you go actors. An Improv Exercise you can do from home with three variations for increased difficulty. 

 

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Studio Director, Matthew Dearing 

Founded Dearing Acting Studio in 2007, ongoing master class and e-course instructor. Personal coach to elite actors, executives and organizations. Founder of Chaos Comedy Improv and Phoenix Casting.