It isn’t about you: We all know the best way to improvise is to focus on your partner. Make him look good and he’ll make you look good. Nichols and May, two classic improvisers, illustrate this. Each focuses on the other to make them look brilliant, which is what makes the whole thing work. Focus on your “scene partners” and make them look good.
Be open and present in the moment: When an improviser is open and present, her acting seems effortless. What needs to happen next is what happens. To the audience it seems like magic, or ESP. She knows what is going to happen. Taoist philosophers call
this Wu Wei, “doing without doing.” So much of our life is lived in the future or the past – “remember when” and “I can’t wait until” But you must be present to receive life’s gifts.
Always be changing:
A stagnate improv scene needs new energy. It is easy to get stuck by ignoring the energy of the scene, not focusing on your scene partner, or just forgetting to agree and build. Sometimes we are stuck in our lives as well, like a leaf stuck on a rock in a stream. Being open to change allows the current of life to push us back into the flow.
Fear is a gift:
Just before I go on stage, my heart is beating, my palms are sweaty, and the little voice in my head is asking me what I am going to do if I start to tank. Some improvisers try to ignore this. But that is like ignoring a truck that is bearing down on you. Fear is a gift. Use the energy of fear, grab it like a bull and ride it, because when you are all done, the world looks so much brighter.
Now choose your improv mantra for the day and get out there. How about: I am happy and healthy. Repeat that to yourself all day and see what happens. Even if you don’t feel all that happy or healthy right now – say it anyway. Fake it ’till you make it!