Improvisational theatre uses audience suggestions to shape the action
that unfolds on stage. Unlike conventional scripted theatre,
there is an element of spontaneity and unpredictability that makes
improv a unique and exciting experience for the performers as well as
the audience. Every performance is completely different, and there's
an element of risk involved since there's no guarantee that any
given scene will "work".
The Basic Idea
There are lots of different styles of improvisation, but the one that's
currently the most popular is "spot" improv.
"Spot" improv involves taking audience suggestions and using them
immediately ("on the spot") to create scenes. The scenes usually wind
up being very funny, but that's not a requirement. Good scenes can be
serious and touching instead of (or in addition to) being comedic.
There are several different ways to structure an improv show.
Most groups simply present a series of improvised scenes, possibly tied
together by a common theme.
Another approach (pioneered by Theatresports and subsequently adopted
by Comedy Sportz and numerous other groups) is to set up a
competition between two or more teams of improvisors. In some
cases, the scenes are awared numeric scores by one or more
Perhaps the single most important thing that improvisors learn
is the value of agreement. Since nothing exists until the actors
create it, a scene will only be "real" (for both the performers and the
if everyone agrees with each other about things like where they are,
who they are, and what's going on.
The performers must also accept each others' ideas, and build on them -- that's
the fundamental process of improvisation.
This is a living document
There's a lot more to be said about improv, but my time
is limited. If you have specific suggestions about what you'd like
to see here, get in touch with me,
by sending me email at