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by Darren Held

It occurred to me that one thing I’ve never really written about here is physicality in improv. My bad. It’s definitely time to get physical.

Whether it’s changing your physical appearance and posture, moving around the stage, or literally getting physical with your scene partners, physicality is an important component of improv that gets overlooked sometimes. But in terms of committing fully to a character and an emotion, physicality can often be the part that makes it all believable.

If your character is angry, we want to see that anger throughout your body – not just in your face or your words. We want the clenched fists, the aggressive stance, we want it all. If you’re in a war, we want to see you lugging a rifle or creeping across the stage on your belly. If you’re having an intense exchange with your partner, we want you to touch each other the way people do in whatever that situation is: have a shoving match, stroke their hair, grab their arm.

It makes sense to most people that in order to be a different character, they would stand differently. But that also means they will walk (or shuffle, or crawl, or dance or whatever) differently. They’ll talk differently. This week, I saw amazing commitment in both Level 1 improv classes, and part of what elevated the commitment to the realm of “amazing” was the bold physicality people embraced.

And yes, I realize you have to have a lot of trust in order to hang all over your scene partner or fling your entire body at them in a Dirty Dancing attempt at a lift. At Held2gether, we do our best to create an encouraging, safe, supportive environment that helps build trust between students and allows them to push themselves out of the comfort zone of “normal” physicality.

Because you know what? Normal is totally overrated. Just sayin’.

By Sonnjea Blackwell

Darren Held
About Darren Held
Darren is the CEO and Creative Director of Held2gether, Improv for LIfe. He has been teaching and performing improv for 15 years, and has performed with H2g, the Groundlings, UCB and Second City. He loves Moto, red wine, and Madonna.

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