Have you ever had the experience where you were creatively stuck on stage? Either you opened your mouth and nothing came out, or worse, you just kept talking and the scene just went nowhere?
When that happens, it’s like going into a black hole. But luckily, there are some things we can do on stage in the moment to kick start our creativity.
My friend, Megon McDonough, is a singer and voice teacher who tells her students that the right brain wants you to be creative. It wants you to sing loud, let go, and be free. The left brain, on the other hand, wants to organize things. It wants to be in control and be logical. So if you are up on stage and you’re just standing there, the left brain will override the right brain and immediately shut down all creativity.
To help let go of inhibitions, Megon tells her students to give the left brain something to do. She’ll have them move their hand like a puppet or walk backwards while they’re singing – something to occupy the left brain so the right brain is freed up to do its job and be more creative.
It’s the same reason why we get our most creative ideas when we’re doing something else, like taking a shower, driving a car or taking a walk. What we want is to duplicate this process on stage.
Here are some tips I have learned to help you keep your left brain occupied so you can access more creativity on stage:
1. Use an object
It’s simple and often ignored, but starting an improv scene with the environment or an object is a great way of distracting your left brain from having to say the right thing. The next time you enter a scene, start by using an object (moving a large box or tuning a guitar), or by doing an activity (washing dishes, cleaning the litter box).
2. Begin with a strong emotion
Starting dialogue without an emotion can put you in your head, where the left brain will take over. Instead, start with a strong emotion (happy, sad, afraid, angry). By focusing on the emotion, your left brain will be kept busy while your right brain can just go crazy.
3. Do something physical
Just like in Megon’s vocal exercises using a hand puppet, by starting with a physical choice at the top of an improv scene will help free up your right brain to have more fun. For example, if player A says: “Your mother called,” player B can react physically by letting out a sound like “ERRRR-RR-R!” and punching her fist in the air.
4. Adjust your body position
Again, this is so simple that improvisers often forget it. Instead of simply standing on stage, try hunching down, rapidly blinking your eyes, or standing with your shoulders wide. All of these things can lead you to a different way of looking at the world and create dialogue that will surprise you.
5. Just move
Sometimes opening up creativity is as easy as moving more on stage. Time and time again I see two people standing on stage like two boring talking head statues and their scene is just that… boring. As soon as I ask them to move around, dialogue flows.
As long as you have at least two of these things going on while you improvise, you will be in good shape. Let us know what you would add to our list.