How to Be Good at Improvisation

Improvisation is a skill that many amateur and professional actors find it hard to master. This is largely because many actors are used to relying on a script to inform dialogue and to set the parameters of a given scene. However, almost anyone can master the art of improvisation and have fun doing it. By getting experience, learning the basic tenets of improvisation, and immersing yourself in a scene, you’ll improve your improvisational skills and ultimately become a better actor.

Part 1 

Getting Experience

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    Take an improv class in person. Search online or in your yellow pages for improv classes near you. Improv classes may be hosted at a local educational institution or by an acting coach. At improv classes, you’ll be instructed about best practices when it comes to improv. In addition, you’ll be able to practice with other members of your class.[1]
    • Depending on where these classes are held, they may be free or you may have to pay a fee to participate.
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    Look for acting classes online. There are a wide variety of online acting classes you can take. While some of these classes will focus on fundamentals and other aspects of acting, some may include a unit on improv or may even focus on it. Take some time to find a class that fits your schedule. Image titled Become a Stage Director Step 1
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    Join an improv group. Improv groups are typically groups of people just like you who enjoy improv acting and are interested in becoming better at it. Find a group by asking your improv class instructor, searching online, or inquiring with friends who are also interested in improv.[2]
    • Improv groups may meet weekly or monthly.
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    Get acting roles. Audition for acting roles in your community or nationally. You can focus primarily on roles that allow you to practice your improvisational skills or you can apply for scripted roles. Ultimately, the more experience you have acting (scripted or improv), the more comfortable and successful you’ll be on the stage.[3]

Part 2
Interacting with Your Partner

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    Ask questions. If you find yourself running out of material, ask a question. Questions will not only allow you to shift the burden of the scene to your partner, but will provide an important cue for your partner.
    • Question your partner about details they've already shared. For example, if your improv partner mentions that they served time in jail, ask them about it.[4]
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    Respond to questions. If your partner asks you a question, answer it. Turn their question into an opportunity to talk about something. Ultimately, you and your partner can take turns asking and responding to each other's questions. This will create a natural dialogue.
    • For example, if your partner asks you what you had for dinner, tell them seafood. Then, use the opportunity to share a scene-appropriate story about the ocean with your partner and the audience.[5]
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    Watch their body language. Your partner may send you non-verbal signals that could give you an idea of how to respond to them or where to go in the scene. By responding to body language and non-verbal signals, you'll take pressure off yourself and make the scene seem more natural.
    • Pay attention to your partner's demeanor and use it as a cue. For example, if they are hunched over and seem depressed, use the opportunity to cheer them up. This will make the scene much more dynamic.[6]
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    Respond naturally. When your partner says something to you, respond to them as if you were having a conversation with an old friend. Don’t force conversation or dialogue. Just say whatever comes to mind in the context of the scene you are performing. Forced dialogue will sound awkward.[7]
    • Say what comes naturally. For example, if your partner mentions the death of a loved one, respond with surprise and concern, as you would in real life.

Part 3
Immersing Yourself in the Scene

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  1. 1
    Own your character. Once you know what scene you’re performing and the person you are portraying, do everything you can to commit yourself to your character. Do this by trying to think like the character and sympathize and empathize with them. Use all of the knowledge you have to put yourselves into their shoes so you can respond in a natural and fluid way.[8]
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    Be specific. When telling a story, you should include lots of specific examples. Without specifics, your partner may not have a clear idea of what you are talking about. In addition, specifics will make your improv more believable. Finally, specifics will possibly make the scene you’re acting out more interesting.[9]
    • Use descriptive words whenever you can.
    • Go beyond general statements. Instead of saying “I was in a car accident last night,” explain how a milk truck flipped over in front of you, attracting dozens of cats, one of which you swerved to avoid hitting.
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    Think of your acting as telling a story. Fundamentally, acting is story telling. When you are doing improv, don’t take for granted that the audience (or even your improv partner) knows what you are taking about. Use the scene as an opportunity to make an idea come to life.[10]

Part 4
Remembering Basic Improv Rules

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  1. 1
    Remind yourself to have fun. For almost all improv actors, the point of improv is to have fun acting. If you’re not having fun, you’re probably doing something wrong. So, before you start a scene, remind yourself why you love improv acting. Start the scene with a light heart and a desire to have fun.[11]
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    Use mistakes as an opportunity to explore the scene. Before acting, you should internalize the idea that mistakes don’t really matter in improv. The whole idea of improv is to let scenes and interactions unfold naturally without a script. What you would normally consider a mistake in scripted acting is just a part of the scene in improv.[12]
    • If you think you’ve made a mistake, use the opportunity to turn it into part of the scene you’re exploring.

    Avoid feeling pressured to stick to a script. Since there is no script in improv, you are free to explore a scene or interaction in any way you and your partner want. Your imagination, then, is one of the biggest assets you can bring into improv acting.[13]
    • Try to act outside of your own perspective. Remember, use your imagination to place yourself into the position of the character you’re playing and into the context of the scene you are acting out.

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