Off the Cuff: 4 Benefits of Mastering Improvisation


Learning and mastering the art of improvisation can be the difference between landing a coveted role and blending in with the rest of the pack. It can also be a powerful tool that boosts your child’s acting to a new level. Just as important: Becoming an improv pro can build confidence, courage, and creativity. Improv actors learn to trust their instincts, tune in to the scene unfolding around them, and respond naturally. In short, improv is a vital skill to add to your talent repertoire, and here’s why:

Audition Boost
Your daughter has been going over lines for her audition. She’s got the part down pat and knows what
she’s going to say. She understands her character’s motivation. She’s ready.
But when she arrives at the audition, the casting director tosses a curve ball. The character for which she prepared was confident and defiant; but the one she’s asked to portray in the audition room itself, however, is scared and unsure. The words are the same. The mood has shifted. Actors with improv training are better prepared to handle the shift seamlessly. Those without these skills are more likely to flounder.

Your son has gone over his lines so many times. There are stage directions to remember and inflection points to master. He’s focusing on getting everything just right and hitting his mark. But then, he misses a word of dialogue and goes blank. Now what? Preparing is important; but being able to adapt and keep moving forward - even if you miss a beat - is invaluable. Additionally, focusing on technical notes can create a performance that becomes a bit too programmed, and maybe even a little stiff. Improv trains actors to stay in the moment and out of their heads. This skill will help your son respond more naturally to the action unfolding around him in a scene as he moves from mark to mark and line to line.

Commit to the Risk
Great acting involves taking risks. Actors, particularly young ones, can be too concerned about fitting the right mold for a part. They worry about giving the casting director the character she wants, as opposed to stepping out and owning the part. Improv skills can give your child an advantage here. Improv is about making decisions on the fly and taking risks. This experience can strengthen both auditions and performances.

Opening More Doors
From commercials to sitcoms and theater, improv is finding its way into productions. Shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm, as an example, begin with a short script that outlines a few key points you’re expected to hit. The rest of the show? Actors are busy making it up as they go along, bouncing lines off each other, building a natural banter through the bullet points and creating comedy gold in the process.

Want to learn more about the art of improvisation? You can start with Impro, a classic resource for impro amateurs and professionals alike. Taking classes is also a great way to build these essential skills. Helping your young actor sharpen those talents, however, can happen outside of workshop and class settings. In our next article, we’ll share a few improv exercises and games that you and your young actors can use to bolster their improv chops.