Every art form has its own kind of improvisation. In music, it’s perhaps most recognizable in hip-hop. When it comes to dance…when was the last time you busted out well-rehearsed choreography at a club? Anyone familiar with the work of Jackson Pollack will recognize improvisation in visual art. And comedians use improvisation as a writing tool.
I liken improvisation in acting to jazz: On stage and screen, we all know the song we’re going to play (the script), but we don’t necessarily know what notes we’re going to hit (the performance) until someone calls “action.” The musician’s artistry is revealed through their creative expression of the music without abandoning the required notes. The actor’s artistry is revealed through their creative expression of the script without abandoning the required words. In acting, just like in Jazz, everyone has their part to play but the presence, focus, and connection of the players has the potential to make the playing exceptional.
When actors typically think of improvisation, they usually associate it with improv comedy. While there are general benefits to studying improv comedy—comfort on set, fearlessness to take the stage, willingness to