If you’ve been acting or improvising for a while, you’ve probably learned that success as a performer always seems to ebb and flow. If your improv career is in a dry spell right now and you haven’t been landing any auditions and no one is asking you to be in their show, it’s easy to just sit around feeling depressed.
But as any successful actor or improviser will tell you, if you want to make it in stand-up, acting, or improv, you have to constantly work at growing your career and creating new opportunities for yourself. If you’re feeling stagnant, it’s important to find ways to get inspired so you can get your drive back. Here are a few ways to get your creativity flowing again when your improv career hits a lull:
Take a Class
One of the best, easiest and first things that you can (and should) do to refocus your acting or improv career is to take an acting class or an improv class. Classes will not only help you re-learn the ins and out of the craft by teaching you valuable skills, but you will also get a ton of practice working with other people who have the same interests and desires that you do, which can lead to some great friendships and potential creative partnerships. Plus, classes are fun! Remember, no matter how experienced you are, the first place to go when you’ve hit a wall is back to the basics.
Perform at Open Mic Night
Another great way to re-ignite your improv career is to find an open mic night. Whether you want to put together a new stand-up routine, try your hand at storytelling, or want to perform a short sketch with a new fellow actor or improviser (possibly from one of your classes), open mics are a great way to get yourself up on stage and continue to work on your performance. Jumping in and performing a new bit for a new crowd will give you plenty of practice and a chance to perfect your acting or improv abilities. A lot of places that host open mic nights offer them from week to week, so you’ll have multiple opportunities to work on your sketch or performance. You can and should utilize the feedback you get from the audience to help you grow.
Go to a Play
Another way to get inspired is to see a show in town. This is something that you should be doing regardless of your stage in your career because you will always benefit from watching others perform. It can really spark something in you when you see a moving performance live! It’s a great escape from the every day and takes you into a different world, while also re-igniting your own passion for performing. You can take away some great ideas, and maybe even think about what you would do as a director or performer in the show you’ve watched — it gets your brain going when you can map out some of the things you would do differently in terms of staging, lighting, performance, and so on. You can even take some of those ideas and utilize them in your own acting or improv class!
Writing is a great way to get your ideas and thoughts out. Studies actually show that when you write something down you’re more likely to follow through with it. It can also be extremely helpful if you’re having trouble with performing on stage because it gets those creative juices flowing in a different, less public way. Try keeping a journal handy so that when inspiration strikes, you have a place to write things down that you can utilize on stage. For instance, if someone has a mannerism that you find intriguing or even a personality trait or physical aspect that interests you, feel free to jot it down quickly as something useful for a character. Or you can write your own sketches, ideas for a TV pilot, storytelling pieces and more. By reconnecting with your creativity and letting a story come forth, you’re also improving your improvisation abilities.
Record a Video
Want another way to get your creative juices flowing? Try turning to video. You can get some friends together to film some sketches, try to make a viral video, or just record you and your friends doing a scene together. The videos don’t have to be professionally shot with an expensive camera, either. Just go ahead and record the videos on an iPhone. The videos can just be for fun, or, if you really love them, maybe they’ll be the impetus for creating a longer TV pilot or web series!
Listen to an Acting/Improv Podcast
One of the final things you can do to inspire you in your improv or acting career is to listen to a podcast. There are numerous acting and improv-related podcasts out there, and if you have iTunes or an iPhone, it’s easy to listen to the expertise of your peers (and it’s free!). Podcasts can give you insider information along with helpful tips and tricks of the trade. And you can listen to one at any time of the day, whether it’s in your car, at your job, at the gym, etc. Most of the episodes are relatively short and are packed with a lot of great tools for you to try. Some great ones we recommend are Improv Nerd (duh), Improv 4 Humans, WTF, Inside Acting, Off Camera and more.
There are multiple ways to re-ignite your career in acting or improv. The key is not to let your dreams of performing fade; your love of the stage should be cultivated and kept new and relevant within your life, always!
Donna Mauer is an aspiring actor and improviser living in New York City who has a love for all things Broadway. She currently studies at The Lee Strasberg Institute and is an active contributor on various theater and film blogs.