Flesh Out Your Character Through Improvisation

Though actors are expected to follow the instructions of the director, if they can implement their own interpretations, it can make the scene more interesting. New actors generally shy away from improvising and stick to the instructions provided by the director. However, if they overcome their fear of their ideas being rejected and try to implement their interpretation about the character, the final product might look more realistic and engaging.

Improvisation in the Character Building Process

Improvisation is basically the art of creatively expressing yourself without going too far from the boundaries set by the director. Like other creative people, actors also get immense satisfaction when they are able to implement their ideas. Improvisation acts as an outlet of your creative energy. If you know how to improvise you will be a surprise package for your co-actors and director. Your acting will be more spontaneous and you will be able to give a more realistic character performance.

To improvise effectively you need to understand your character. If you have landed upon a role and want to make it look realistic, do some homework on the character. Go through the character description and try to gain an insight into his personality, goals and objectives. Prepare a questionnaire about the character and interview him in your mind. Find out what he has gone through and what he wants to achieve in future.

You Are Prepared, Now What?

If you have this much information, it will be easier for you to get into the character. Now as you go through your daily activities, try to imagine how your character will do that. See all your activities from your character’s perspective, be it brushing your teeth or choosing a book to read. The point of this exercise is to make you feel more comfortable with the character. Get so close to the character that you and him are one and the same. Once you do this, improvisation will not be a problem for you.

Apart from knowing your character, another thing required for improvisation is not thinking about future or the past. While you are acting, try to stay in that moment. If you are evaluating how the scene has gone so far, or rehearsing the next dialogue in your mind, you will not stay in your character. Improvisation is not possible without staying in your character. If you stay in the present, you can allow the character to take over yourself. This way your improvisations will look more natural and spontaneous.

In Rehearsals

You can also use improvisation techniques while rehearsing with your co-actors. Before you begin practicing, discuss the scene with them to find out the real meaning. Try to build a consensus on your interpretation about the character’s real motive and objective. This will help you to get more comfortable and sympathise with other’s character.

You can also recreate the scene by modifying the script the way you want to. You can add additional dialogues or extend some part of the scene. In addition to this, you can swap roles with your partner. This way you can understand the opposite character and also see how your character is interpreted by someone else. These activities are not only fun to try, but they also develop a relationship between you and your partner. You both will know each other and can easily improvise on screen without discomforting the other.

While improvisation ability is an asset for any actor, how much you can improvise a scene depends on your talent as well your comfort level with your co-actors. The amount of creative freedom allowed by the director is also a important factor. While many directors want to portray a scene exactly the way they have interpreted, others are open for suggestions from actors. If you can make the director understand your interpretation, he or she may allow you some creative freedom to experiment and improvise.

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Kit Hurstfield
About the author

A lover of coffee, nature, books & good music, Kit is a Theatre Professional (Director • Writer • Storyteller • Acting Coach) and also a qualified Civil Celebrant. He is following a Druidic path seeking Truth and Light, while being dad to the most amazing Romanian rescue dog: Frodo • 🏳️‍🌈

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tuirennAs a theatre director and writer, I am an ardent teller of stories. As a story weaver I am determined to share truthful and magical worlds with my audiences. Find out more about me here

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