Is becoming an improv actor right for me?

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What do improv actors do?

Still unsure if becoming an improv actor is the right career path? to find out if this career is right for you. Perhaps you are well-suited to become an improv actor or another similar career!

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How to become an Improv Actor

There are typically no formal educational requirements to become an improv actor. Improv is a performance art form that values creativity, spontaneity, collaboration, and passion. Therefore, individuals from diverse educational backgrounds can excel in this field. Here’s an overview of potential pathways to the career:

High School Diploma or Equivalent
Earn a high school diploma or equivalent. High school education provides a foundation in basic communication and organizational skills, and it lays the groundwork for further learning. Throughout your high school years, take drama and theater classes. Join drama clubs and participate in school plays to gain practical experience and develop your acting abilities.

Post-secondary Education
While not required, a background in theater or performing arts can be beneficial for aspiring improv actors. Consider formal education in acting, theatre arts, visual and performing arts, or a related discipline. Look for programs that offer comprehensive coursework in performance theory, stagecraft, character development and analysis, storytelling, and voice and speech (vocal technique, diction, projection, and control).

Courses in communication, creative writing, or related fields can also be beneficial, covering topics like public speaking, which are particularly relevant to improvisational theater.

Improv Classes and Workshops
Taking improv classes and workshops offered by theaters, comedy clubs, improv schools, or professional organizations is a common way to learn the fundamentals of improvisational theater. These classes, led by experienced improv instructors and guest teachers, encompass training in various aspects of improv, including:

  • Improv Techniques, such as ‘yes, and’ (accepting and building on your scene partner’s ideas)
  • Active Listening
  • Character Improvisation
  • Scene Work
  • Musical Improv
  • Short-Form Improvisation
  • Long-Form Improvisation

Self-Study and Practice
You can also learn and develop improv skills through self-study, practice, and experimentation. Read books, watch videos, listen to podcasts, and attend performances by experienced improvisers to learn new techniques, approaches, and styles, and gain inspiration for your own performances. Set aside time to practise improv on a regular basis, whether with a group of fellow improv artists or on your own. Practise different improv games, exercises, and techniques to strengthen your improvisational skills, creativity, and spontaneity.

Be open to feedback from instructors and fellow performers. Use constructive criticism to identify areas for improvement and continue to grow as an improv actor.

Join an Improv Troupe or Team
Seek out opportunities to perform with an improv troupe or team in your local community. Improv groups and comedy theaters hold auditions or welcome new members on a regular basis. Performing with a troupe or ensemble allows you to gain valuable stage experience, build confidence, refine your skills, and develop your performance style.

Network and Collaborate
Build relationships with other improvisers, directors, producers, and industry professionals in the improv community. Networking can lead to new opportunities for performances, workshops, and collaborations, and help you establish yourself as a respected and sought-after improv actor.

Applied Improv / Industry-Specific Training and Certification
Improv actors may pursue specialized training related to a specific industry or application, such as applied improvisation for healthcare, business, education, or therapy. Completion of these training programs may result in certificates that recognize the participant's expertise in using improv techniques within that industry context, in educator, trainer, corporate facilitator, or therapist roles.

Professional Organizations
There are professional organizations and associations that cater to the improv community, offering resources, networking and continuing education opportunities, and support for improv actors and practitioners. Here are some prominent examples:

  • The Improv Network is an online platform and community for improvisers, teachers, and directors. It offers forums, articles, and directories of improv theaters and festivals worldwide and hosts the annual Improv Network Conference, bringing together improvisers for workshops, performances, and networking.
  • International Theatresports Institute (ITI is a global organization dedicated to promoting Theatresports, a form of competitive improv originated by Keith Johnstone. ITI provides resources, training, and accreditation for Theatresports leagues and performers worldwide.
  • Applied Improvisation Network (AIN) is an international organization focused on the application of improvisational techniques in various fields such as business, education, therapy, and community development. It offers conferences, workshops, and resources for professionals using improv in their work.
  • International Society for Humor Studies (ISHS) is an academic organization that promotes the study of humor and comedy in various forms, including improv. It hosts conferences, publishes research journals, and provides resources for scholars and practitioners interested in humor studies.
  • Local Improv Leagues and Associations bring together improv performers, troupes, and theaters on a local basis, organizing events, festivals, and workshops to support the improv scene in various towns, cities, and regions.