I've had the pleasure of working with many beginners. Many of them have become performers at my theater; many have gone on to use improvisation in their professional or personal lives; and many were happy with their one class and left satisfied that they tried something new. Regardless of what they got out of the class, it is our job as instructors to make sure that each student feels successful regardless of how long their experience in improv is meant to be.
With this in mind, sometimes working with Beginners can be intimidating. I challenge instructors that instead of being daunted by this responsibility, we should see this as an opportunity to share our joy with a new person. All of your students are coming with tons of potential and it's your job as an instructor to provide them with the right tools for them to take their first steps down the road you've come to know so well. Whether their goal is to be a professional comedian or a better speaker, it's an instructors job to create a safe space and to provide them with some easy tools and supportive feedback.
Below are points I try to make to my Beginner students. I know many are inspired from classes I've taken; podcasts I've listened to; or books I've read. I put them all here as reminders and tools for you to use and to share with your students.
- I will never be as good as you because only you are you. Your improvisation will be born from the experiences and knowledge that only you have.
- Give all exercises a try. And then try them again. And them try them a third time.
- There is no "I can't"
- Making mistakes is an important part of the process. Most of the time, you won't feel successful the first time through these exercises. All I ask is that you take risks and then together we will learn how to take the next step.
- It's much better to fail in a workshop than in in front of an audience. Take risks!
- No one is going to die if you make a mistake. The sun will still rise tomorrow.
- Act and React
- If you're thinking ahead in order to feel more secure, you're going to miss what's happening NOW.
- It's okay for a character to say "No" to an idea...but when the actor says "No", it stops the action and the flow of ideas.
- Be as excited about accepting an offer as you are about making an offer
- An offer can be any physical or verbal action. Literally, anything.
- Don't deny the reality of the scene.
- Don't give orders in a scene.
- Don't just repeat what other people are saying.
- Don't ask questions that don't add information.
- Don't talk too much!