Acting while improvising

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to host Amie Roe and Kristen Schier when they were visiting Pittsburgh to perform and give a couple killer workshops (not to mention stop by Talking Shop!).

I always jump at the opportunity to stay with and host improvisers because of all the great conversations that emerge. I talked to them about a lot of topics (not all improv, I am not a monster), but I did get into a great conversation with Kristen about using more of my acting chops in my improv work.

I had worked with some improvisers this past winter on exploring this space. For me, it was more about getting back in touch with my acting work. Some were more experienced actors and some were new to acting, so we did basic text-to-stage concepts. I was excited to play with how to improvise some of the homework an actor does.

Kristen, I was surprised and delighted to learn, says you don't. It's not about improvising the homework. Being able to in an instant or while a scene is progressing understand each tactic and how it will affect your reading and could affect your scene partner. Where acting has really helped her is her ability to understand her instrument.

As an actor, her instrument is her body and her voice. Improvisers are so quick to jump to dialog and not truly understand how to emote with our full bodies. How to release emotion on vowels and with our breath, how to use our full instrument to communicate. So when we make a choice or are given a gift we are used to using our entire instrument to embody it -- that is the gift acting brings.

I am not yet sure where to take this, but I am excited about having some direction there.