Improvisation theatre is a form of comedy whose performance is unscripted and unplanned. Performers delivering an improvisational comedy skit create their content naturally at the time of the show. The lack of a script to read or recall from makes this artwork a great one since it comes from a creative mind and chances that it will be entertaining are high. Improvisational theatre can bear two forms namely improvisational comedy and non-comedic theatre shows. This creative artistic work can be used in film and television.
The first good documentation about the history of improvisational theatre and comedy was in the Atellan Farce which was documented in 391 BC. Konstantin Stanislavski from Russia and Jacques Copeau from France were theatrical theorists and content directors in the 1890s and they greatly used improvisational theatre in rehearsals and training actors. In the 20th century, theatre improvisation games started and they were used as drama exercises meant for children. Later in the 1940s to the 1960s, Viola Spolin wrote a book known as ‘Improvisation for the Theatre’ which was about learning and teaching improvisation techniques. It was the first of its kind.
Canada also has a contribution to the development of improvisation theatre and comedy. Keith Johnstone, a director from the country, put his ideas on paper and called the book ‘Improvisation and the Theatre.’ Its content was majorly about improvisation and the invention of theatre sports. Theatre sports have become a basis for today’s improvisational comedy and also an inspiration for popular American TV series known as ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’
Application of Improvisational Techniques
The practice of improvisational techniques in other fields apart from the performing arts is referred to as applied improvisation. The techniques are applicable in various fields. One way they can be applied is in drama platforms. Here, television, film and stage actors use the technique in the rehearsal process. The technique can also be used in classes to educate people and also in business. Business applications are meant to develop certain skills such as communication and creatively solving problems. In psychotherapy, the art is used as a tool to access an individual’s feelings, relationships and thoughts.
Modern improvisational comedy is in two forms known as short-form improv and long-form improv. The short-form improvisation has short scenes. The little scenes are made from a pre-set game or idea driven by a suggestion from the audience. Viola Spolin’s training influenced these short scene performances and many first creations of this kind were under her name.
Long-form improvisation is mainly found and performed in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City. The shows mostly take the form of a prevailing kind of theatre.
This kind of art is dependent on the interaction of the performer and his/her audience. Since nothing is scripted, the artist draws inspiration for his words from the audience. If the audience is not an active one, then chances of the show being a flop are amplified. You should involve the audience in your wording.