Teaching can be one of the most rewarding experiences on an actor’s improv journey. Teaching is the groundwork for learning; learning is what both students and teachers do during instruction, at least the good ones. It has been said that those who can’t, teach. Whereas that sentiment has gained momentum, it’s the farthest thing from the truth. Teaching enables an instructor to look at scene-work impartially and better their own performance. It is hypocritical to not “walk your talk.” Some of the best teachers break, build and inspire their students – all while taking away something for themselves.
Instruction and teaching is a delicate process. It takes an incredible
amount of humility, both for the teaching and taught. While pushing people to their limits, the instructor must also maintain a safe environment for improvisers to feel comfortable and an ability to explore vulnerability. The person leading the class has to be able to make people feel like their bodies, minds and souls are protected. By syncing all three, the environment manifests connection, or in improv, groupmind. Groupmind is the basis of the improvisational theater group. Only if everyone is on the same page can the ensemble attain groupmind, togethernerss.
Along with the spiritual aspect of teaching, the educator must ensure the curriculum and/or theory is being taught. Nothing is worse than an unprofessional, non-planned improv course. Now, the curriculum doesn’t have to be rigid or non-impromptu, but should have a goal. One of the most esteemed improv comedy teachers explained it simply: If you know your intention, the rest will follow. This intention allows for fluid conviction of the theory. One of the most entertaining and informative ways to educate is to improvise with a plan!
The key to teaching improv is knowing your intention and bringing people together by discovering themselves. Improv your instruction, but remember to elevate and motivate.
Jon Jon Lannen is an improviser and best-selling author. He instructs, performs and writes for Voodoo Comedy. He loves sparkling water and no, that is not the same as tonic water. Learn more about Jon Jon here.