Creating environment and props out of 'thin air' [Space Object Work]

Go to an Improv theater show and you'll most likely see a bare stage.  Maybe the stage will have a couple of chairs and that's it, no props and no costumes.   If an actor wants to do a scene in a car, he or she will set up two chairs, pretend to open the car door and step inside.  He or she will sit in the chair, hold onto an imaginary steering wheel and pretend to drive.  The audience will get the idea and play along.

In typical theater, an actor holds up a stick, and you make believe it’s a sword. In magic, that sword has to seem absolutely 100 percent real, even when it’s 100 percent fake. It has to draw blood. Theater is “willing suspension of disbelief.” Magic is unwilling suspension of disbelief.   ~Teller

It's true, the audience will believe just about anything...if we make an effort.  You don't have to paint your face white and study mime...but you do have to help the audience pretend.  You just need to do the obvious things.  If you make believe that you're sitting in a car, then you probably should open the door before you stand up.

This video shows how most improv actors make believe with imaginary objects.  It was produced by Sally Smallwood and directed by Chris Besler...and if very funny.  It does however remind us that if we want the audience to believe we're in a car when we're really just sitting in a chiar, we need to act as if the chair was a real car.


Here is a tip given to me many years ago by a well know improv actor in San Francisco.  We were talking about creating objects with mime and he said, "I'll show you how I deal with that stuff in a scene.  Let's pretend we're doing a scene and you hand me cup of coffee or something."  I started a scene on the spot and said, "hey Frank, I've got that cup of coffee you wanted."  The other actor said, "thanks".  He took the imaginary cup from my hand, turned to the side and pretended to place it on an invisible counter.

Leaving his hands empty...again.

Yeah, that'll work too.

3 sections to ImprovNotebook: Improv at work, Improv on stage and Improv in Life

As we started getting more posts, we noticed the conversations focusing in these three areas.

Improv at Work:  Rich and I lead quite a few workshops for those who want to use improv for a business outcome.  Schools and businesses are talking more frequently about Improvisation as a business tool.  This article [link], written by a professor at MIT, identifies 5 ways that improv skills aid business success.  And the Applied Improv Network is growing daily.  They will host a conference in September in San Francisco sharing ideas and ways that Improvisation applies to areas other than the stage.

Improv on Stage:  Rich and I continue to perform, teach and direct  improv for the stage.  This is where improv theory hit's the's where we see and explore improv in action.  It's one thing to understand how to 'yes and' your partner but getting up and doing it while in front of an audience can open the door to a whole new level of self-learning.  Performing Improv is also thrilling.  This conversation about exercises to start an improv classes inspired lots of participation. [link]

Improv in Life:  Improv changes lives.  It empowers and liberates.  It is a path to play.  Can you take an improv workshop without it affecting your life on a day-t0-day basis?  This article written by Stanford student Jamie Soloman captures the cross over beautifully.   And we continue to be inspired by our friend Patricia Ryan Madson -  Improv Wisdom

That's why we've given this site three big heading:  Improv at work , on stage and in life.  Take a look around...add your perspective, insights and questions about Improv.