Improv and the Courage of Impulse


I am a total improv fan. I love it. I think my love began when the wave of Theatresports, an improve based event, was at its height in Melbourne in the 90’s, it was even on TV! One time I went to a Theatresports event at the Victorian Arts Centre and it was antithesis of everything I ever previously seen in that building (probably a total of two other shows). It was loud, it was colourful, it was funny, but most of all it was unpredictable.

The name ‘Theatresports' might have you thinking it is the aspect of two teams competing that makes it sport, and this is part of it. But it is also the sense of unpredictably that aligns it with sport. Unpredictability means more than just surprise for both the audience and the teams on stage, it means failure, and lots of it.

Improv, if you haven’t come across it is short for improvisation which is defined as ‘an act of spontaneous invention’, and in the arts there are two main areas it is used, in theatre and in music. It is with theatre improv that storytelling connects. Dramatic, or theatre improv was developed by Viola Spolin in the 40’s 50’s and 60’s, and it was then further developed by Keith Johnstone, and he was the one who created the concept of TheatreSports.

Behind improv and many other aspects of creativity, including storytelling, is the paradox of practising, so you can invent in the moment. Improv is the art of cultivating and allowing imagination full range, and then acting upon the impulse that the imagination brings up, not knowing what will happen, but knowing that failure is just as possible as success. That takes courage.

But the success is deeply, uniquely and playfully satisfying.

Improv is at the heart of great story crafting and story telling. It allows you to relax into your imagination and the energetic conversation with the audience. It allows the imagination to open and, within the boundaries of the story, to create flow.

Our modern hierarchies, our perfectionist tendencies, our fixed mindsets all mitigate against this exciting and yet natural state (think children). So we need to relearn how to do this, to be brave, and to push ourselves out of our comfort zone to embrace improvisation.

This month’s Story Wise theme is story creativity and the title of this months free lunchtime webinar is: ‘Story Flow - Creativity, Improv and the Storytelling Process’. You can sign up here.…/register

Or make a free Story Call appointment with me, Kate Lawrence to talk through your story dreams, questions, and quandaries.…