Improv students and teachers have been challenged these past few months as improv theaters, like other public entertainment venues, have closed during the coronavirus pandemic. While theaters remain shuttered for the foreseeable future, improv teachers and students have turned to online classes to continue to practice and hone their craft. Many improvisors and educators have been hesitant to pursue online courses as improv courses and shows were rarely held in the pre-coronavirus world. However, many have found that online improv provides numerous benefits including:
Connecting with other people Online improv offers students a fun way to engage with their peers during socially distanced times. The internet provides a wider reach for students and educators, so they can interact with others that they may not have met before, or would not be able to meet in-person.
Improving self-confidence Online improv teaches students that failure is a natural part of growth. Improv requires students to completely trust their partners and teammates in the scene with them. With unconditional support, students feel more comfortable taking risks and build resilience.
Getting moving With long days spent at home sitting in front of the computer and school sports temporarily cancelled, online improv allows students to get up and moving. Regular physical activity increases energy and reduces stress, which can be especially helpful during these uncertain times.
Managing anxiety Maintaining good mental health is just as important as taking care of physical health, especially these days. While not a substitute for therapy, some psychologists believe improv can be an effective complement. In theory, improv is a space free from judgment making it an ideal environment for students who struggle with low self-esteem, social anxiety, or other types of anxiety disorders.
Expanding communication skills, especially listening skills Without the ability to interact physically, online improv makes everyone focus more on what is being said, rather than how it is being said through body language and other nonverbal cues. This allows students to open up more and dig deeper into their scenes. With sharpened listening skills, students are better equipped to pay attention in class as well as hear their classmates’ ideas and build on those thoughts.
Honing use of video conferencing technology Online improv classes use Zoom, or other video conferencing software, and students and teachers have found ways to adapt this technology for their needs. For educators, online improv helps them to more closely analyze each line in a scene. The bit of delay in video chat helps students with pacing, so they aren’t moving through a game, or scene, too quickly. Students and teachers can use the video chat software’s ability to turn the camera on and off as a way of making entrances and exits in a game, or scene.
Teaching adaptability and flexibility With the world constantly in flux, it is more important than ever to be skilled at adapting to new situations and have the willingness to be flexible in any scenario. The scenario is always changing in improv, and this encourages students and teachers to think on their feet and reduces their fear of failure.