"What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘Improvisation’? I’ve been asking this question in many conversations, workshops and courses. Most of the answers fall into three categories.
These are all natural emotions to feel when confronted with aspects of improvisation, such as the unknown and the unpredictable. It’s why it makes a lot of sense in workshops to create an atmosphere of safety, in which people feel more comfortable about facing discomfort; feel emotionally equipped for an adventure into new territory.
The second category is the contexts in which people have met improvisation. The list includes theatre, comedy, jazz, dance, sport, fighting and cooking. One or two people have mentioned ‘improvised explosive devices’ or IEDs as they are known to professionals.
This tells us that there may be a common thread of improvisation recognizable independent of context.
In this category too, specific shows and stars are called out. Whose Line Is It Anyway, Tina Fey, Larry David, Paul Merton, Josie Lawrence, The Comedy Store Players, etc. Seeing these people and programmes is often an entry point, one’s first exposure to improvisation.
The third cluster is characteristics of improvisation. People say, “Unplanned”, “thinking on your feet”, “in the moment”, “novelty” and “unscripted”. Some of these lean to the positive – building the plane while flying it; some negative - winging it. And there are mentions of some of the technical elements, such as Yes.. And, Being in the moment, Making your partner look good, Accepting Offers, and so forth.
The range of responses provides a richer picture than a definition or even a description. If we need a definition, I lean towards “Freedom within structure” or “The interplay of freedom and structure” or even more simply, “Making use of what’s there”.
When you first encountered ‘Improvisation’ was your experience positive or negative? And how has that coloured your perceptions since?"
You can find the original post on the PJA website.