Published by ShawnKinley on

grayscale photo of woman peeking on planks



a man is holding his head with his hands

FEAR is the main issue for Improvisers to overcome. 

  • Fear of being accepted, 
  • Fear of being noticed, 
  • not noticed, 
  • doing well, 
  • following the rules,
  •  being good enough… 
  • etc etc etc. 

EVERYONE has fear on some level. The question is how to deal with it?  Below are a few tips and tricks to help you get through, get around, battle, cope with, and co-habitate with…


First… you might want to ‘reframe’ how you encounter fear.

I found this bit of writing by Khalil Gibran that I thought was worth considering for some people who look at fear as an ominous ocean they feel they might drown in.

It is said that before entering the sea
a river trembles with fear.

She looks back at the path she has traveled,
from the peaks of the mountains,
the long winding road crossing forests and villages.

And in front of her,
she sees an ocean so vast,
that to enter
there seems nothing more than to disappear forever.

But there is no other way.
The river can not go back.

Nobody can go back.
To go back is impossible in existence.

The river needs to take the risk
of entering the ocean
because only then will fear disappear,
because that’s where the river will know
it’s not about disappearing into the ocean,
but of becoming the ocean.

Khalil Gibran



woman taking photo while showing smileI did this before shows for a very long time. It never failed to calm me. 

Before the show begins, while the audience is relaxing in their seats, and chatting with each other, peek out and look at the first two or three rows. Look for a warm set of eyes, a kind face, an easy smile. Scan those faces for the person you want to do the show for.

Don’t let them know that you have chosen them.  Don’t ACTUALLY make direct, desperate eye contact with them. But know that this show is for them. Your internal focus is that they have a good time at the show.

Again, this is a suggestion that only you know. It’s not something you need to tell them you are doing.  


Games can get you out of your head (if you are comfortable with the game). They can distract you from unproductive thoughts and free up space for the unconscious brain to do what it knows is right. (your intuition does the improvising and you just watch it happen!).

If you are suggesting things for people to help them on stage, try to tell them things they can actively do. Telling them what NOT to do can have the OPPOSITE effect and drive them into a panic. “DON’T DO THE THING YOU ALWAYS DO!”  – That’s way too much pressure!! 

 It’s easier to do something positive and light.

 Find active and engaging actions rather than digging into the thing that scares you. Telling yourself to stop the behaviour you haven’t been able to stop for the past three years is not going to get you anywhere moments before the show. Nope.

Create an image that makes you the person  you want to be. 

Maybe you’ve been having a hard time connecting with others and it’s scary to think about how you might even approach that.

 Here’s a metaphor using the idea of magnetism overcome that “connection fear” PHYSICALLY without worrying about convincing yourself to do it in your thoughts. 

Magnets connect, right? That’s a good start to a metaphor.

 Pretend that your arms, chest, head and legs are full of magnets  and so are  your partners. Through the show, allow the magnets inside of you to be pulled by the magnets of others. It could be a small movement of your elbow pulling forward towards the magnets in their arm.

Play subtley at first. Turn it up the intensity  if you want the connection to be stronger.  (Level one can’t be seen by the audience or your partner but YOU KNOW you are doing it. Level 10 means nobody can miss it).

Playing the game is easier than changing how you think or feel. Just do it. Play games like this and don’t think about fixing problems. They will fix themselves.

Do you remember when public speakers were told to Imagine the audience naked?  I wonder what Political correctness has done to that suggestion.  I tried it when I was younger. It was just too distracting.


Part of the fear trigger comes from the feeling that we are alone.  We never are alone. Few people can convince themselves of this when the stress rises.

  • BEFORE the show, ask someone if they want to make a pre show agreement to watch out for each other. Maybe follow up and give notes to each other after the show. Or leap in when needed during the performance.  The chances are you will never need each other. Knowing you have a true ally make a big difference. BUT REMEMBER – it goes both ways. You have to be there for them!
  • To convince yourself that your partner actually “has your back”, (so  many people say this before a show but display none of the comraderie associated with it on stage) occasionally reach out for your partner’s hand on stage. Physically connect. Look into their eyes and breathe as you say your lines. — At the very least you’ll create wonderful moments of connection and hopefully it will give you the sense of not being alone. 

  • Do you feel that the audience is the enemy??? Make them your ally.
    Freeze the scene when you don’t know what to do. Go to the audience. Tell them that this is their chance to alter the show. Ask them if they want to see the characters go down the road to the abandoned house or to the airport where there’s a plane to take them to the resort. Ask them what your partner needs to know from the stranger. Ask, WHAT COMES NEXT. They are your partner and can take the pressure off you… if you are willing to ask for their help. (CAUTION… If you don’t trust the audience, consider asking for three suggestions and you will take the one THAT MAKES MOST SENSE. One person in the audience will help you in the way you need.)


person in black long sleeve shirt holding babys feet
You aren’t the only one with fear, right? Look for the other person in the show who’s more scared than you.  

Your job is to take care of them. Distract them from their internal troubles. Support their idea fully. Smile and lead them forward when they are spinning their wheels…

Yes, that last tip is a trick to take the fear away from you. 

I hope you understand that caring for your partner is likely a solution for both You AND Your partner.

 Getting out of your own head generally  gets you into a better space.

 Visiting their fear will never seem as terrifying as living in the worries that we create for ourselves. So take care of your partner and kill two fears with one stone.


Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *