Improv Is “Theatre of the Mind”
by on February 7, 2020 in General Information Improv Advice
I was recently teaching an improv class where I was hammering the talking points about how using object work can make performing easier. I got super animated and emotional about it. I then asked for insight from my students as to how this can be applicable in other aspects of their lives. One student responded with “D&D”.

“Elaborate,” I asked enthusiastically.

“Well,” he continued, “When you’re playin’ D&D, you have to describe everything going on. ‘I’m coming at ya with my heavy armor as you hear the chains banging against them.’ It’s theatre of the mind.”

I lit up like a Christmas tree. “It’s ‘theatre of the mind’.” What a BEAUTIFUL way to think about how we can frame our imaginations! I asked him if he made it up. He mentioned that he didn’t know exactly coined the phrase but it was ubiquitously quoted in his RPG circles. I told him I would give him credit for it anyway – THANK YOU STEVE!

Improv Is Theatre Of The Mind

At the top of every scene, I ask actors to take 10 seconds to perform object work; do an action that you can keep the entire time you’re out on stage, and show the audience what’s in the immediate space the characters employ. This gives them time to give themselves something to do while giving them more context of where they are. These basic elements can breed brilliant ideas, dialogue, characters, and moments for the actors but more importantly can invite the audience to become invested into the world those actors have built. That world resides in the minds of the audience and the actors are merely revealing more of that world to them in real time.

Our imaginations are limited only by our willingness to use them. Help your audience discover the theatre you’re building in their minds as much as possible!

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