Monday, October 24, 2011

Improv for actors

I recently completed Eric Hunicutt’s Level 2 class and cannot believe how much it has helped me with the rest of my acting life.

I originally joined class in order to be more involved with the improv community and to make people laugh, but I found that the fundamentals and confidence gained in improv class have also given me strength and confidence in my pursuit of film, TV, and commercial work.

It’s no secret that improv is a helpful tool for commercial auditions – just count the number of times the iO West bar erupts in cheers when any one of our illustrious students, staff, or alum pops up on the television screen.

Improv gives commercial actors the confidence and imagination to make bold, memorable, and appropriate choices during auditions, which ultimately leads to callbacks and bookings.

Not only that, but there is an increasing demand for experienced improvisers. Since starting class at iO West, I have signed with a new, enthusiastic agent and have had interested managers state that my improv training makes me “marketable, pitch-able, and desirable.”

I have also seen a dramatic improvement in my stage and film auditions and performances. In Level 2, Hunicutt encourages listening, responding truthfully, and allowing your choices to inform the scene by considering “if this is true, what else might be true?”

While those seem like simple ideas, they are often overlooked in scripted work.

It is so easy to stop listening and responding honestly because we are either trying to "add stuff” or we are thinking of our next line.

Improv training has taught me to remain present and to make honest and reasonable choices, rather than trying to overload the scene with my own ideas, ultimately clouding the author’s intentions.

I find that when I remember Hunicutt’s suggestions to “keep it simple, stop working so hard, and realize what the scene is already giving you,” I am truly able to tap into the real meaning of a casting director’s favorite instruction to “do less.”

Lastly, but certainly not least, I must give credit to Eric Hunicutt for seeing each improviser as an individual and taking the time to give honest and specific feedback.

If it weren’t for Hunicutt telling me to stop thinking, to trust myself, to not work so hard, I wouldn’t have found the kind of free-spiritedness in my acting that is getting me callbacks and booking me roles.

Next time you think to yourself “improv sounds fun, but I’m a serious actor,” remember that improv training will help you become a “working actor” and that is a significant “Truth In Comedy.”

- Annie Mackay

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