Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Improv vs. Shakespeare

Maybe it's because I have two theater nuts in my family, but it seems to me that one way to divide people is by improv vs. Shakespeare.

Improv theater is all about accepting what is given to you and working with it, without any preconceived notions about what will happen next. Improv actors get very good at reading the subtle non-verbal cues that let them know what is coming up next, at going with the flow and accepting the changes that arise. They are used to working without a script or even a solid idea of the direction of the scene. They can stay in the moment and trust that the next moment will work out.

Shakespearean theater, on the other hand, is about working with a set text and implementing it well. Actors know in advance what they are supposed to do and say, what everyone else is supposed to do, and where it will happen. They have a plan to work from, and they can focus on making that plan work as well as they can. They can stay in the moment because they know that the next moment is already set.

Translated to normal people, improv types are comfortable going with the flow, without any idea of when or where something will happen or what is next. Shakespeare types want to know the full plan, what is happening next and when; then they can do their best work, secure in the knowledge of what is next. The difference is most noticeable when a Shakespeare type is expected to function well in an improv environment; they can't relax when no one can tell them what will happen next, so they have a hard time doing their job well.

No comments: