Impro… what?

Impro: On Theatre and Extreme Sports
by Amitay Millo

Theatre is a profession filled with paradoxes – many elements in it contradict one another yet still reside under one roof. One of the most interesting of which is the paradox of immediacy. In the theatre, the spectators need to be convinced that what is taking place on stage is happening for the first time. If they are not convinced, they will not empathize with the occurrences and would lose interest in the performance. Although every spectator realizes that the experience is an "imagined" one to some extent- that they are sitting in a theatre hall and that the characters on stage are fictitious – without believing the immediacy of the action, the magic is gone.

The performers on the other hand- have their work cut out for them. They have to convince the audience that what is happening to them on stage is taking place for the first time. This is despite the fact that they have rehearsed the play numerous times and the fact that it is performed on stage night after night. Therefore, the challenge which the performer is faced with is how to perform the same thing time and again – each time as if it were the first? This is the paradox which lies at the heart of any theatrical performance.

Improvisation, in its purest manner is – to go up on stage, without any preliminary preparation, and create a theatrical piece. As such, it draws directly from this realm of immediacy, as the performers do not engage in rehearsing and the actions on stage genuinely take place for the first time. It is truly immediate. Thus a sense of 'live electricity' is created on stage and amongst the spectators, as all are aware that they are witnessing something unique, a once in a life time occurrence taking place before their very eyes.

Much like in extreme sports, the kind where the part taking are faced with eminent danger, improvisation performers, go up on stage. Ignoring their own safety, relinquishing any form of self respect, their sole purpose is to create theatre which can only take place here and now.

What is Improvisation?
(Taken from

Improvisation is the practice of acting, singing, playing musical instruments, talking, creating artworks, problem solving, or reacting in the moment and in response to the stimulus of one's immediate environment and inner feelings. This can result in the invention of new thought patterns, new practices, new structures or symbols, and/or new ways to act. This invention cycle occurs most effectively when the practitioner has a thorough intuitive and technicalunderstanding of the necessary skills and concerns within the improvised domain. Improvisation can be thought of as an "on the spot" or "off the cuff" spontaneous activity… Read full article >>


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