In the debrief, however, each of them made comments about where they had planned to go in the scene. I mentioned to them that despite all of their plans, and that the scene didn't really go in any of those directions, they still managed to create a great scene.
That's incredibly challenging for high school improvisers - to go onto a stage with nothing planned. Professional improvisers have trouble doing it, much less insecure teenagers. What's great about Allen's quote is how it tries to get past the preconception that your improv scene will either be a success or a failure. Only rarely have I seen a "bad" improv scene that also failed to entertain the audience - most of the time, improv scenes are bad or good only when judged against our own preconceptions.
Here are a couple of ideas to help improvisers just live in the moment.
- Face your fear and just do it.
Ignore your own ideas for the scene and just walk on stage and put yourself in that scene. Listen for an opportunity to become a character, solve a problem, cause a problem, or establish a relationship, and just do it.
- There are no mistakes, only opportunities.
Everything done or mentioned in a scene is now part of the reality of the scene. Instead of ignoring it, or trying to "correct" it, just let it be. Sometimes the best scenes come from things that at first seem contrary, but good improvisers who listen and work together can find a way to make them make sense.
- Be brave and trusting.
This is one that is important for everyone in the scene to adhere to. Someone's going to have to play the underdog, the problem-maker, the victim - if everyone in the scene is brave, then anyone can play that character. And if everyone trusts their scene partners (and recognizes the trust that everyone else places in him or her), then everyone knows that someone in the scene will get them out of it.