I just took an improv workshop with Washington Improv Theater (otherwise known as WIT), and MAN was it FUN! It kind of felt like play time for grownups.
Now, having a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old at home, I have to admit that I probably get a lot of improv experience on a daily basis. It’s actually pretty amazing to me to witness and get to play a part in the amazingly creative imaginations of my two kids. I love becoming part of the fun worlds and stories they create.
Maybe you’ve been told that improv is a great tool for voiceover, and after taking this workshop, I can certainly understand why.
First of all, when you’re recording with a producer or director, you may be asked to completely change your approach to a script, and being able to make quick adjustments (a skill that improv certainly teaches) is often necessary.
Another great skill that comes from improv is the idea of committing to something. In the case of improv, it’s committing to the scene and to your fellow actors in that scene. And in voiceover it’s about committing to the script, to the writer’s intention, and bringing that to life.
It was also important to really pay attention to all of the other actors and what they were doing in a scene, and to make sure that what you were doing added to the scene. And to realize that there’s sort of an ebb and flow of one person becoming a bit more of the center of attention at one point, then filling in as more of a background scene setter at another point. This can relate to voiceover in a few ways, the most obvious of which is in a scenario where you’re working with other talent on the same script, and really paying attention to both your lines and theirs to determine how your part best serves the overall narrative. But even when you’re working on a script where you’re the only talent, there’s still an ebb and flow of words and lines, with some needing more emphasis than others to convey and communicate the message effectively.
Improv is also great for building self-esteem and confidence, because (as our instructors repeatedly told us), it’s all about being supportive. The idea is that everyone is working together as a team to make a scene successful, so everyone has to play off of one another and be supportive of the things the others are saying and doing. So they told us that we shouldn’t worry about feeling self-conscious or like we weren’t going to say something funny or clever. They also pointed out that truth is often the funniest thing, because it’s something we can all relate to. And isn’t that what we’re trying to do with voiceover? Relate to people? Get them to relate to us, and whatever it is we’re voicing?
So if you haven’t tried improv, I highly recommend it. If nothing else, it’s just a super fun way to break out of your daily routine and get to PLAY for a little while! Many theaters and organizations do offer some sort of free experience, so Google something in your area.