What IS Improvisation?

Improvisation is behaviour within a range of spontaneity, flexibility and more…

On Stage And Off…

Improvisation has been around since the beginning… (Yes, the VERY beginning).

Flexibility to capitalize on our mistakes, change paths, explore possibilities and adapt to the unknown, means that improvisation is why we’re here in the way we are. (And yes, it can be funny stuff!)

Definitions & ANTI-definitions!

It’s a little frustrating listening to non-performers say that they “can’t improvise”. They can. They do – All the time.

It’s equally frustrating to hear those who have been performing for decades say that they have THE definitive answer on what improvisation is and how to do it. Then they accuse others of doing it wrong when they are doing it differently.

The problem is that both the beginners and the experienced stage improvisers, have bought into definitions of improvisation that are misleading. Be careful with definitions that portray improvisation as an elitist experience for the fastest, funniest, most clever or define it in a way that narrows it to a dead perspective. It’s not these things. It’s essential, intrinsic behaviour we ALL do EVERY day and more


Our focus at The Improvisation School… is largely aimed at Improvisation as a narrative, theatre device – a collection of tools used to create spontaneous expressions with a broad emotional base, exploring the greatest variety of content.

Improvisation is basic behavior combining many elements;

  • adaptability
  • awareness
  • spontaneity
  • communication
  • risk-taking
  • play
  • flexibility
  • … and more


Improvisation is nature adapting when there’s mass extinction. It’s monkeys evolving into men. It’s society responding to social movements. It’s you forming an opinion and having a simple conversation.

Rigid definitions put the ideas into restricting boxes and limit its evolution. Those boxes create safety, but the limited arrangement of ideas can’t reflect what Improvisation truly is.

Anyone who has improvised on stage for some time recognizes that inspiration often appears when the rules get broken and not when a definition of improvisation is followed fanatically. It can be chaos corralled into surprising stories and spectacle but…

it mustn’t be sterilized to one specific notion.

When Improvisation defies strict definition it maintains its magic.

  • You do something spontaneously. It is improvisation.
  • You repeat the behaviour and it is not improvisation.
  • You do it again, but stop trying to do it like the first time and it steps closer to improvisation again.

And in one moment you can both improvise and not – like an actor speaking a script a thousand times and still, the performance is subtly different every time because the actor must respond to the moment and not just the rehearsals.

There is a target but it’s not where you look. It’s where you are.

SIDE NOTEA search on Google for the Rules of Improvisation will give you… Rules. Lots of them. Consider thinking of these “rules” as “Suggestions, for Now”.

Repeating rules because they are rules will not make you a better improviser. Incorporating the suggestion into your common sense is a much better path.

When suggestions and definitions become scripts they damage your ability to truly improvise.