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Improvisation, or Improv as it’s often referred to as, is a form of acting in which the actors do not work off of a script. They may receive characters, scenarios, settings or even words that they are required to incorporate in the scene, but everything is completely created on the spot. The result is often extremely humorous, and many comedians get their start from improv.

Improv is a powerful tool for actors, but it can also be extremely helpful to business professionals, public speakers, teachers, and anyone just looking to have fun. Improv teaches people to think on their feet, gives them flexibility and promotes good teamwork skills. Improv requires participants to say the first thing that comes to mind, which is often frightening at first. However, it builds confidence as people realize that they are quite funny when they aren’t in their head.

The first rule of improv is saying Yes, which is imperative to keeping a scene going, and is a skill that can be used in everyday conversations. Actors accept an offering from another actor, and always add to it. For example, if one actor suggests that they should hop into a hot air balloon, and another says no, the scene has no where to go. But if the actor agrees, and also suggests they should bring a monkey along the scene will escalate. Why a monkey and a hot air balloon? That’s the genius that is improv.

Improv also can provide a host of party and car games. Try challenging a friend to a game where you may only speak in questions. Or, a game of Props, made popular to the masses by Who’s Line is it Anyway? in which random objects are used for anything but their original intent. Improvisation breeds creativity and imagination, skills that are often lost after childhood. It can also enhance problem-solving skills.

Improvisation schools include The Second City, Groundlings, and The Upright Citizens Brigade. These schools have started many careers in comedy and acting, but you don’t need to have showbiz aspirations in order to attend. Improv schools often see a wide variety of students. There are classes suitable for any age, experience and skill level. Students are often very outgoing and friendly, and the environments are fun and nonjudgmental. Many community theatres, local acting studios and colleges also offer classes in improv.

Improvisation is a skill that can be enjoyed by everyone. Young or old, shy or outgoing, improv exercises the creative, imaginative, playful centers of your mind. It’s a necessary tool for actors, and enhances the necessary tools for life. Laughter is the best medicine, and taking part in improvisation is a guaranteed prescription.

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