When I first started performing Improv, the thing I found most scary would be the idea of having a mind blank on stage. We’ve all been there, right? Maybe you’re in the middle of a scene or on a backline waiting to initiate a scene. You need an idea, but you’ve got nothing. No matter how hard you try to rack your brains you can’t come up with anything. For those new to improv, panic can sometimes set in and the stage can feel a lonely place. But it doesn’t have to be like this. So, let’s talk about how we cope in situations where you might feel like this.
Let’s look at initiating scenes. Say, your group is half-way through a show; everything’s going great, you do a great scene, it gets edited, everyone hits the backline. Then, nothing. You look at your teammates and it’s clear no one has an idea. What do you do? You know the stage is empty and you know someone needs to go out soon. Even if you’ve forgotten every half idea you had or you can’t remember the suggestion you got at the start, someone’s got to do something. So, if you’ve got no ideas, you’re just going to have to go out with nothing and find something organically.
If you’re initiating a scene without much of an idea, try to make life as easy as you can for yourself and do the basic’s up top. Figure out who you are, where you are, what you’re doing, how you feel about any other character you’re on stage with. You don’t need to force anything too quickly, just set the base reality and play out the scene. Something unusual will come up and you can play with it. You’re a good improviser, trust yourself! You’ll find something!
As well as having confidence in yourself, one of the key things for me is having trust in your teammates. It’s a lot easier to step forward with nothing, knowing your teammates have got your back. The onus on making any scene good is not just on whoever initially steps forward, but on the whole team. Depending on the format you’re doing, your team can help with anything from walk-ons, to tags, to edits. Your team are probably good at improv too! Trust them, they’ll help you out!
Whilst there are techniques to help you remember ideas you have had from an opening or to generate ideas during a show, it’s also helpful to embrace the idea that from time to time you’re going to have come on stage with nothing and find something organically. The more comfortable you are at practising organic scenes, the more comfortable you’ll be doing it on stage. Some of the funniest scenes I’ve watched and performed in are ones that came from nothing. It’s improv after all, half the fun is making it up as we go along! So, let’s embrace the organic scene!