What’s Your Next Step?

Whether you’re a veteran improvisor or one that has just finished classes you’re probably asking yourself what’s next? It’s a pretty daunting question really. I’ve been doing improv for over 15 years now and I always ask myself what’s next. I think it’s something you should always be asking yourself as an improvisational artist. It’s an important question. Why end up getting stale, why not grow and keep learning?

As students just finishing, stale may be a ways away. If you just finished classes your “What’s next” can be any of the following and should help guide you:

  1. Audition for a troupe – Does your theater hold auditions? Then do it. Even if it’s scares the crap out of you…DO IT! Yes, you may fail, but you have to experience it you can only become better by practice and auditioning is an art all onto itself. You can be a good player and still really succumb to the pressures of “the room.”
  2. Start your own troupe – This is in your control. Just finished spending a long time with a group of good people from your class? Know some friends of yours that are improvisors too? Start your own troupe and go for it. Start getting onstage and doing shows. There’s no better training then getting in front of a crowd.
  3. Start training at another theater – Get another perspective from someone that has a different philosophy. It’s your own personal journey, go see a show at some other places and see what connects with you the most. Then start taking classes there.
  4. Take part and watch as many shows as you can. You can learn by watching the good, the bad and the ugly.

For veterans, you probably ask yourself this question a ton like I do. You’ve been on that one or two teams for 5 to 10 years now and are pretty content with showing up and getting onstage. You’re not phoning it in, but it’s not as challenging. What can a veteran do to spice things up?

  1. Like I told the newer improvisor take classes at another theater that has a different philosophy then the theater you trained at. I know you’re screaming, “Screw that” I’m not paying X amount of dollars to do that. Why not? In 2009 after doing 8 years at iO, where I was teaching, I decided to take classes at The Groundlings. It was tough doing a level one class for sure, but I sucked it up and it was actually a great learning experience. These theatre’s two philosophies are way different and I learned a ton. It really gave me another perspective on things that helped me become and even stronger and more consistent performer and an even better teacher. You see as a vet performer you get to learn things in two parts. One, is you learn their way of doing things and two, you get to learn how a teacher teaches in their style. It’s a win win!
  2. Take a break – It’s always nice to take a sabbatical once in awhile. If you’re doing the same thing, maybe it’s time to take a vacation from improv for a bit and come back to it with a new and fresh perspective on things.
  3. When or if you attend festivals take a workshop that sound interesting to you or that you haven’t done before. For instance, I was at the Detroit Improv Festival and I took a physical workshop from two amazing improvisors from Canada who, at the time, I’d never heard of, but I was really taken by their workshop, their style of play and their commitment to that skill. It really rubbed off on me and I incorporate it into my work today. Yes, I’m an old war horse when it comes to improv but we can all still learn and see what new things are happening.
  4. Challenge yourself and start a new team. As a vet I feel we have some responsibility to help the younger improvisors at our theaters. Start a team with a mix of vets and newer improvisors. It will be refreshing for you and it will help them play with people that are better then them.

For every improvisor it’s a personal journey. But It’s a journey that can take twists and turns. As an artist we should always be evolving and never become content with what we are doing. If you feel that way, shake things up a bit! It’s scary but can have amazing results.

Nick Armstrong
Nick is Camp Director and Founder of Improv Utopia an improv retreat for adults in California and Pennsylvania. He is also one of the founding members of the National Improv Network and a performer and teacher at iO West and The Groundlings. He has also taught many workshops around the world.

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