Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Improv Artists Stay Connected

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Improv Artists Stay Connected

Article excerpt

The whole idea scared me to death, which is what made it kind of exciting. I'm not sure how else to explain why I signed up for an Improv for Dummies workshop during the fourth Sarasota Improv Festival at Florida Studio Theatre.

I have taken some acting classes over the years to better understand the art form, and I performed on stage in high school and in a 10-minute play just a few years ago, but I don't consider myself an actor. I'm too reserved and self-conscious as a person to be as free as the best actors and improv artists have to be.

Improv performers are artists with special skills, which was evident throughout the weekend festival. They display quick thinking, verbally and physically and can fearlessly follow (or lead) other performers into unknown territory.

I joined about a dozen other would-be performers for the workshop led by Rebecca Hopkins, the director of the FST Improv, and Christine Alexander, one of the troupe's standout performers. They ran us through a series of basic yet essential exercises designed to show us what improv is all about.

I'm sure I wasn't the only nervous person in the room, but the feeling was quickly dispatched during the warm-up exercises. We introduced ourselves not just by name, but with an accompanying action (a bow in my case), and then we all repeated each other's actions. It was good preparation for what was to come.

There was an observation test, where we had to look at our partners, then change three things about our appearance and figure out what was different about the other person. Improv requires keen observation skills.

Being alert was essential in an Electric Company-style game in which one person would make a sound that would be turned into a word or phrase by a partner. We practiced mirroring the movements of our partners and then testing our abilities to follow while being pummeled with personal and math questions. Mirroring seemed easier than figuring out square roots.

At one point, we stood shoulder-to-shoulder in a circle, all of us looking at the floor, trying to take turns counting to 30 without any two people speaking at the same time. …

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