I know I probably shouldn’t say this as an improv teacher, but I have found that doing storytelling has actually been helping me with my improv.
It might seem counter intuitive that doing solo work would actually help you with improv, which, by its very nature is all about collaborating and working with others. But it has.
I used to hear some of my students say, “What really has helped me with my improv is doing stand-up.” And I didn’t really understand why that would be until I started doing storytelling.
I’ve realized that sometimes when I’m improvising, I can hide out in the group and let my fellow other players carry the ball, while I just follow. And when I do this, I don’t have to make strong initiations or take any risks. I can get by by playing it safe because I have the security of working with others.
In solo performance, you don’t have that luxury. It’s you, a microphone and the audience. You’re exposed. It’s scary and exciting all at the same time.
If things aren’t going well, you cannot rely on your teammates to save you with a quick edit or a generous tag out. Instead, you have to rely on your instincts, and learn how to adjust your performance in the moment on stage to connect with the audience.
Sometimes your instincts will work and sometimes they won’t. But regardless of the results, you are always learning something.
If you survive getting up on stage alone (and you will), you will emerge with a new found confidence that can apply to your improvising.
I know that’s happened for me. Since I have gotten back into doing storytelling the past few years, I have found that when I’m improvising, I am more apt to make stronger choices and I’m not as self-conscious or in my head as much as I was before.
Having to go up alone in front of an audience as a storyteller has also given me a new appreciation for what a gift it is to play with other people, where everyone has your back and you are genuinely supported.
But most importantly, it has helped me strengthen my voice as an improvise, and it has made me realize I am much stronger than I ever knew.