Despite its fashionable status today, the idea of improvisation is not new. In fact, it is a form of drama that has been around for centuries. It even formed part of the Commedia dell’Arte in Italy during the 16th century.

By definition, improvisation is a performance whereby the actors’ responses are unplanned and there is very little script with which to work! Instead, the drama unfolds as the cast play off of each other’s characters as well as the environment in real-time!

Improvisational techniques are extremely useful to every actor for many reasons. Not only do they allow the performer to shape better-round, more authentic characters, but they can help to produce unscripted moments that bring magic to a scene.

So whether you are already enrolled in acting lessons, or still searching for acting lessons near me, improvisation should be high on the list as a skill that can improve your craft and performance.

In this article, you will find out more about the benefits of improv as well as how to develop engaging improvisational techniques and incorporate them into your acting lessons.

Will Acting Classes Include Improvisation?

When it comes to your drama studies, there are a number of skills you will need to grow your confidence and help you to land jobs. Fortunately, much of this knowledge can be acquired through your acting lessons.

When it comes to the kinds of skills you will develop through your acting lessons, you can expect to learn about sight reading (also known as cold reading), the various acting techniques, scene study, and audition techniques. In addition, you will come across improvisational classes which have proven over time to be of great benefit to almost every actor at some point in their career.

If you are taking your acting lessons, or drama career seriously, you will know that developing your improvisational techniques increase can even increase your chances of landing acting roles simply because your auditions will probably go more smoothly.

Some of the fabulous examples of improvisation include famous lines like these:

  • “Here’s Johnny”- from the film The Shining in 1980
  • “You talkin to me” – delivered by Robert De Niro in the famous 1976 film, Taxi Driver
  • “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” – was the famous 1975 improv line from the film Jaws

Even though improvisation is recognised and sought-after in the field of drama, it should be noted that not all actors are reliant on improvisational skills and may specialise, or rely on, other acting techniques.

One particular area where improvisation is almost essential though is in the realm of comedy, especially when it comes to stand up and live comedy.

One of the most famous comedians our time, Robin Williams was noted for his improvisational skills that made many of his films famous. He was an actor that certainly highlighted the creativity of comedian actors.

microphone on stage in crowded auditorium
Improvisation techniques can also be applied in real-life situations. | Source: Unsplash

So while acting, especially sketch comedy and other comedic performances, are most commonly associated with improvisation, it is equally important to know that improv is not only used by actors! In fact, it can be such a useful skill for day-to-day life, that improvisation classes are sometimes associated with people outside of the world of theatre and drama.

Business professionals, especially those who have to deliver presentations or speeches can greatly benefit from improvisation skills. When it comes to teams in an organisation, improvisation classes can help members develop better listening, speaking, and communication skills.

So whether you are taking acting lessons or are considering Improvisation classes for other reasons, it is a skill that could certainly contribute to the development of your creativity and ability to think on your feet.

How Will I Find Acting Classes Near to Me Improve Improvisation?

When it comes to the fundamental ways to improve your improvisational skills, whether that’s for drama or general life purposes, there are a number of ways to do it.

Apart from acting lessons which could easily include improvisation techniques, you could attend a specific improvisation class or workshop. These can either be designed specifically with actors in mind, or they can be for the purposes of the general public.

In South Africa, there are many places to sign up for Improv classes regardless of the level of your ability and experience. You could make enquiries at Helen O’Grady Drama Academy, or check out Meetup.com and Jittery Citizens who also offer an Improv Masterclass 101.

Basically, if none of these places are in your city, you could simply search acting classes near me, and you are bound to get in touch with someone who could steer you in the right direction.

Alternatively, you could try the Superprof website which is a platform that hosts tutors from all over South Africa who offer acting lessons of every type. The advantage of using a Superprof tutor is that you can actually search by location and find someone who is near to you, however, if you are not averse to online lessons, this is also possible. All you would need is an internet connection and a webcam to begin improving your improvisation techniques.

actor and actress performing on stage
Take improvisation lessons to boost your confidence on stage. | Source: Unsplash

Another advantage of using a Superprof tutor is that in many cases the first lesson is offered as an introductory trial – at no charge! This is a fantastic way to find out if you actually gel with the tutor.

At this first lesson, you can also find out about their teaching methods and have a discussion about your improvisation goals, whether those are for the purposes of supplementing your acting lessons or general life!

When it comes to signing up with a private tutor, remember that you will have a lot more input into the course content. Together with your teacher, you can tailor-make your practice to concentrate on the specific areas where you may even have fallen behind in your acting lessons. Don’t forget the flexibility you will have when it comes to the availability of classes too. And when it comes to the financial aspect, you might be surprised at how competitive private drama tuition can be.

Make sure that before you invest in a drama class, tutor, or workshop of any kind that you do your research first. You might be searching for acting classes near me, but sometimes the reputation of the tutor or the recommendations you receive via word of mouth, are more important than a nearby location.

Bear in the mind that the content of improvisational courses will differ from tutor to tutor depending on their background and experience. This is another reason to have a good discussion up front to see if your goals are aligned with their types of acting lessons or improv teaching methods!

In general, though, it is likely that you will work through a variety of exercises, games, and performances during an improvisation course. All of which will not only benefit your drama career but offer you life skills too.

Other Ways to Improve Improvisational Techniques

Apart from attending acting classes or using a private drama tutor, there are a few other methods you could try to improve your improvisational techniques.

  • Watch movies that feature comedians and actors who are famous for improvisation. Look out for Robin Williams, Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig and Steve Carell.
  • Head out to comedy club evenings, attend comedy and drama festivals much like the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown that is jam-packed with excellent comedy every year.
  • Rope in family and friends to play games like Whose line is it anyway.
male and female mimes
Don't be afraid of feeling silly during improv workshops. It's all part of the process. | Source: Unsplash

Essentially, the more you are able to immerse yourself in the world of drama and improvisation as well as actually practise these skills as a participant, the more skills you are bound to develop.

Don’t Be Afraid

Sadly, it’s human nature to put off our dreams because of fear! Some people procrastinate about signing up for acting lessons or improvisation workshops because they think they will make a fool of themselves. If that is you, don’t be afraid!

Remember that everyone is there to improve or learn improvisational techniques and will all feel slightly unsure at first. Simply embrace all that the experience has to offer you and enjoy the inevitable laughter that is certainly a hallmark of improvisation!

Finally, the reasons for signing up for improvisation classes are endless and every one of them comes with a lot of benefits.

If you are needing to supplement your acting lessons or want to pursue a more well-rounded drama career, there’s improv! If you want to gain more confidence, not only in front of the camera or stage but for castings, there’s improv!

Perhaps you are already on the road to becoming a comedian but need extra practise with sketch performances or your comedic timing – extra improvisation classes would certainly benefit you in this case.

Whatever your reasons for searching for acting classes near me, simply enjoy the experience. Regardless of whether you intend to be the next Jim Carrey or not, the world of drama and improvisation can only enrich your life. Break a leg and have fun!

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Niki

Niki is a content writer from Cape Town, South Africa, who is passionate about words, strategic communication and using words to help create and maintain brand personas. Niki has a PR and marketing background, but her happiest place is when she is bringing a story to life on a page.