In The Beginning…

In the beginning there was Spolin and Spolin created improv activities. And it was good. They helped seasoned actors explore, and become more real on stage and helped young actors understand how this whole Acting thing worked. And the improviser was born.

Then Del Close came and created Truth. And it was good. Truth helped improvisers understand what it was they were doing and exploring.

And Keith Johnstone came and created Status, and Being Boring, and Gibberish. And it was good. Status and Being Boring, and Gibberish gave improvisers the tools to explore the Truth on stage.

These things were good, and they were fruitful, and they multiplied across the land. Each in their own way they begat: Status scenes, and genre games, and philosobot, and the Alphabet Game, and Murder Endowments, and Sing/Speak, and Gibberish Replay.

At first these games were just tools, to trick normal people into becoming improvisers. They were fun, and the creativity that was released felt good, and right. And so the improvisers said,

This is good shit! We are hilarious. Let’s put this on stage!

And they did. Across the land improv groups sprang up, like mushrooms after rain. And Audiences laughed. And people thought it was good. And so the improvisers across the land spake, and they said,

Audiences love this. They love us doing silly things on stage. Drunk people look up to us. Lo, we are funny!

That’s funny! 

But all was not well. For, although audiences laughed, they left shows feeling empty and alone. They returned to their dwellings and thought,

What did I just see? I think it was funny, but I just can’t remember any of it.

For, by putting the exercises on stage the improviser created an art form with no substance, and no value. And by worshipping the Funny above all other qualities, the improvisers forgot Truth and forgot Acting and forgot Exploring.

And after a while the improvisers thought,

Well, this is funny. And audiences do laugh. But I am bored. Is this all improv can offer me? Perhaps there is something more. I have heard of this thing called the Harold, and other improv called, Longform. Perhaps the answer lies there.

And so, the quest for the perfect Longform began.

Next post… The Quest!


About improvmantra

What is an improv mantra? An improv mantra is a phrase you repeat to yourself just before you go on stage, and continue to keep in your mind while you are in a scene. An effective mantra makes you a better improviser. Todd Erler, like all living creatures, has been doing improv every day since he was born. He has been performing improv on stage for more than 20 years. He is a teacher, writer, musicain, director, actor, and member of The Portable Reality Show.
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