Rehearsing Solo Improv

My perspective on this blog has shifted of late, from only being about writing to touching on creativity overall. To this end, here’s my first official post about improv…

I’m in the midst of rehearsing for an appearance tomorrow night at the Gainesville Improv Festival in Sunny Florida and have really found the difference between rehearsing with people and rehearsing alone fascinating. You see, my latest improv project is a solo piece entitled “Uncle Ukulele.” I play an overly upbeat children’s entertainer who sings songs based on audience suggestions while accompanying himself on, what else, the ukulele. There are other elements in the show, including different genres of songs, puppets, stories, and typically an “electrifying” ending. At the heart of the show is audience participation – my character interacts with the audience from the top of the show to the very last word. It’s integral the audience say “yes” to being young boys and girls for twenty-five minutes and join me on the ride. Having fun with the audience is at the heart of this show, I cannot stress it enough.

So here I am, rehearsing the show alone at home.

I’ve rehearsed in improv ensembles. During scenes in rehearsal, there’s a built-in audience of other actors on the “back line,” ready to jump in and perform a new scene but also watching the scene at-hand with great intent. I’ve also rehearsed in an improv duo, and while there is no audience there is someone to bounce ideas off. Rehearsing a solo show is a solo experience. If something comes up that’s funny, I have to chuckle at it in my head and stay in character. If something isn’t working, I try to persevere as though someone were watching, no matter how great the inclination is to just quit it and start over. If anything, I’d say rehearsing solo keeps me on my toes more than any duo or ensemble rehearsal has.

Most interesting to me is when I find myself having conversations with hypothetical audience members. They’re each unique and I go back and forth with them, working on my tone (super-friendly!) and facial expressions (super-smiley!). Some of them are even uncooperative (what does it say that I practice what to do if I run across a jerk?). I must say, a lot of this happens in the car when NPR loses my attention. If you’ve ever been driving and see someone singing their heart out behind their steering wheel, radio cranked, imagine seeing me actively speaking with Harvey the Rabbit as I sit behind my steering wheel, smile cranked.

There’s more to speak about on this topic, but the above post is a good start. I wanted to get something out to you, dear reader, before I embark on my trip to Gainesville. Questions / comments welcomed.


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