A round table discussion about improv with the cast of “Unrehearsed”

(The conversation in its entirety – uncut and unedited – appears above.)

Following the first rehearsal of this year’s “Unrehearsed” show (see my post on last year’s show here), the cast (pictured below) and I sat around to talk about improv. The idea wasn’t mine, actually. One of the cast member’s, Mike, had suggested that we do this simply because he loves performing and loves talking about it. So I decided to bring in the rest of the cast. They are a great bunch of passionate actors and are full of insight.

The cast. From left: Potoula Anagnostakos, John Ortiz, James Weippert, Michael Pagano, Matt Waldman.

A little background info: this show is for a great charity called the Sarah Grace Foundation for Children with Cancer. This is the second time that we’re doing an improv show for the foundation, and the third overall theatrical fundraiser. We are all friends of the organization and happily dedicate our time. You can find more info about the organization, and the show, here: thesarahgracefoundation.org

Aside from the main reason why we’re doing it, creating and participating in a show like this is a tremendous amount of fun. And if done well, is a real treat for the audience.

Please listen to the entire conversation for the full effect. It’s only 16 minutes long and will be exponentially more interesting than the few highlights I’m about to type.
On that note, here they are:
  •  The actors focused mainly on communication, in one form or another. All theater requires a tremendous amount of communication, but, as they point out, improv requires a focus not needed in other forms of theater. Since the actors don’t know what’s going to happen, it is all based on listening, observing, and responding. And it’s tough. Which brings me to my next point.
  • Chemistry. One of the first things that they mention is chemistry, and it’s a point they make over and over again. These performers have been together for years, and they know how to play with each other and respond to each other. This takes practice. They know how to play to each other’s strengths. They also know how to work with each other to move the scene forward, hit a climax, and trust that the scene will end when it’s supposed to. The person responsible for making sure the scene doesn’t spin out of control into a laugh-less oblivion is:
  • The host. The person who holds it together: chooses the scenario, the performers, and relays all of the necessary information to the audience. He needs to be just as in tune with the actors as they are with each other.
  • There are many “rules” and “guidelines” to keep in mind when doing improv, and you can find many of them in my previous post (linked above), but from just spending 16 minutes talking to these people that I’ve been working with constantly for several years, it really began to dawn on me that the best way to become better at improv is to do improv. And do it with people that you know will make you better, because they’re relying on you for the same thing.
  • Poop is always funny.

Enjoy the conversation.