Improv Group: Getting and Giving Feedback


Do you perform?

When and How do you give feedback to fellow improvisers? After shows? The next day? During workouts? How about a separate meeting just to give feedback? Here is my take on feedback or notes.

Good notes change an improviser's work for the long term, are based on trends or habits and are delivered and received without defense or argument. Notes on individual scenes are less helpful and risk spending time on infrequent problems.

The best notes are changes to repeat behaviors and actions that improvisers do out of habit or by frequent choice. These notes have the largest effect on someones work. They can be simple, such as, naming others with the same name, playing "stock" characters, or starting every scene that you are in. Trends are also the easiest to support with examples that can help with clarity and understanding.

The method of delivery can be verbally one-on-one or written (on paper or online). The giver should prepare carefully to be concise and the receiver should seek to understand but not defend or correct. The note is the note.

Notes should be stated in terms of what you would like people to do instead of what they should stop. For example "I would like you to leave more space for others to talk" is better than "You need to talk less" or "Don't drive scenes".

Notes on individual scenes are not very helpful in peer work because they tend to question individual choices. Those are easily debated and might be a rare case. They also tend to be talked about for a long time or in terms of what is the "right" way. This is spending too much time talking about fringe or philosophy as far as I am concerned.

What's ideal?

I prefer quick notes right after a show to resolve format or structure issues and clarifying question to others about your own work. For example, "In that scene, what choice could I have made that would have delighted you more?" or "I wasn't sure what you were looking for there, what did you want to happen?" Anything to help you learn to delight your partner next time.

And, I like periodic written notes for the whole ensemble. Each person gets and gives notes for everyone else. All members can indicate "me too" or a star on notes they agree with. This style of notes lets you focus on the things that most people want to see change and gives you the chance to be a better improviser in the eyes of your ensemble as a whole.

How do you do it?

Please add your voice to the discussion in the comments below.