Spreading the word of improv to the wider community

By Stuart Moses

I’ve recently been making an effort to make friends who live locally, which led me to getting involved with The Sunday Alternative – an inclusive secular community that meets regularly to celebrate life with music, ideas and community outreach. Organiser Stephen overheard me talking about improv – which I don’t particularly remember doing, but which does sound very on brand – and he invited me to lead a part of an upcoming assembly.

While it’s a delight to run workshops for improvisers, I feel a missionary zeal to introduce some of the concepts behind improv to people who’ve never heard them before. I was conscious of the large number of people likely to attend, which meant anything using words became impractical as there would be so much noise we wouldn’t be able to hear anything. I’ve been increasingly interested in the use of movement in improv, particularly using physicality with the intention of creating connection. 

During the warm-ups we explored the Michael Chekhov idea of contraction.

After a circle game and some light physical warm-ups to wake up the body, we explored mirroring. Society doesn’t often give us permission to look at someone so directly and copying their every movement is rarely acceptable. Once everyone has been mirroring each other in pairs, I love to get them to spread their awareness, so they are still mirroring their partner, but they’re also mirroring someone else in the room. If it seems impossible, if it seems like it’s breaking your brain, then you’re doing it right.

A group of people moving in unison inspires a sense of connection.

Then we did some Flocking, with everyone facing the same direction, and the person at the front moving in a way in which everyone else can copy. When they’d had enough of leading they could turn, an action copied by the whole group, then the new person at the front leads. I always feel a sense of awe when I see groups of people mirroring each other. The moves don’t need to be quick, clever or funny to be captivating. I’m pretty sure that everyone involved felt closer to everyone else as a result of moving in unison.

The sessions seemed to be well received, with several people expressing an interest in doing more, which is an exciting prospect. So, if you get an invite to share improv ideas beyond the improv scene, I’d encourage you to accept, who knows where it might lead?

In this case, I’m running an improv session in the park. So if you live in Reading or nearby, please do join us.

Find out more about The Sunday Alternative here.

At the time of writing 55 spaces for the next British Improv Project have been sold, with only 20 spaces left. So if you’ve thinking of joining in November it’s worth booking as soon as possible by completing the BIP Improv 4-6 Nov 2022 form here.