There is nothing like the feeling of being on stage with no script to fall back on, just quick wit and spontaneity. It’s awful. I still have nightmares about an audition for an Edinburgh Fringe improvisation theatre show where the director shouted celebrities, animals and news stories for me to instantly inhabit.
As the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – a place of pilgrimage for the acting technique known as improvisation, in which stories are made up in the moment – got underway this weekend, I fondly recall my time performing at the world’s largest performing arts festival – an experience that shaped me profoundly, despite the nerve-racking nightmares.
Here are three valuable lessons from my favourite improv masters that I learned back then and still apply today when crafting content:
Keith Johnstone, the British-Canadian improv pioneer who passed away earlier this year, said, “There are people who prefer to say ‘yes’ and there are people who prefer to say ‘no’. Those who say ‘yes’ are rewarded by the adventures they have. Those who say ‘no’ are rewarded by the safety they attain.” The ‘yes, and’ principle in improvisation demands that performers accept and build upon their scene partner’s ideas. While this approach might lead to some risky situations in real life, adopting a ‘yes, and’ mindset in content creation means being open to exploring and expanding upon others’ concepts.
Ken Campbell, a renowned British theatre director, performer and familiar face at the Fringe, had a knack for embracing the unexpected. From staging a 22-hour play to directing a troupe of actors to competitively improvise Shakespearean insults, Campbell’s experimental content creation approach was all about welcoming surprises. At Alpha Grid, we meticulously plan, script and storyboard every film we make. However, some of the most captivating moments arise unexpectedly while capturing B-roll or uncovering surprising soundbites from interviewees – true gifts that elevate the art of storytelling.
Josie Lawrence, perhaps one of Britain’s most successful female improvisers, was a regular on the improv TV show Whose Line Is It Anyway? in which performers were challenged to participate in improvised games and develop comedic sketches. The more depth that was added to an improvised scene, the more entertaining it became. Alpha Grid’s key audience of business decision-makers crave rich content that goes deeper than surface level. To cut through the noise and add vibrancy to our stories, we ensure they are detailed and precisely tailored.
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