Being on all the time is exhausting and physically and mentally impossible. So what do you do when you’re not “feeling” it? How do you make sure you’re bringing your best when you don’t feel your best? Well, adrenaline often helps. I’ve been sick many a times when I have to perform and that excitement, nervous energy one feels before starting a show will often carry you through. But it’s not just about being sick. It’s also about feeling uninspired. How do you continue making offers when you’ve got “nothing” to inspire you? Perhaps the suggestion your troupe has taken brings nothing to mind. Or the scene you’re in is dragging on and giving you nothing. Or you could be watching a scene and feel like nothing. NOTHING! NOTHING! NOTHING! The frustration is mounting and all you can do is stare at your other troupemates and hope beyond all hope that they have something but they DON’T. Alright, calm down. These things happen and there are several ways to combat this.
First off Edit. It’s the hardest lesson for all artists to learn. Less is more and will always be. So if you feel like a scene is going nowhere edit the scene. You can edit on the sidelines or even from within the scene. Many first time improvisers don’t realize that you can easily end a scene by walking out of it or grabbing another improviser and starting a new scene. If you feel that there should be an edit don’t wait for someone else to edit, edit the scene yourself.
Heighten. If nothing is happening double down. You can take a scene where everything is incredibly vague and make it more so. “Some guy came by to get that thing. You know that guy? He’s working well with that girl who lives in that place.” A little bit of self awareness goes a long way. You can also heighten by making a bold, fun choice within the scene. Perhaps, your character is ambivalent guy (FYI, ambivalence is never fun to play) choosing to care about something the other person is saying will give you something else to work with. It can be a negative or positive feeling. Just feel something.
If you still feel you’ve got nothing, look around. Your surroundings are always giving you something to work off of. Perhaps one of your troupemates has an interesting loook on his face or funky shoes. It could be that the exit sign leads you to “exiting the relationship” you’re in. Maybe you’re stomaching is all in knots and that’s why you can’t concentrate. Use it. The beauty of being a performer is that our feelings are not tamped down. We can use them to propel us forward.
Finally, commit. Improv boils down to a very basic truth and that is that commitment is EVERYTHING. So when you have nothing commit and you’ll have everything.
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