Improvisational theater is an art form that requires interaction with other people. With COVID-19, the world of theater has come to a standstill with many theaters shutting their doors and canceling programs. While it’s true that theatrical performances can be adapted to screen or digital means, it is, admittedly, not the same. This lull in performances, however, can be used as a time for reflection, and actors must find other ways to hone their craft. For improvisational actors, this can be a time to try out new tools such as a journal. Journaling? For improv? Yes! It may seem counterintuitive to put words down on paper because improvisation requires you to be in the moment instead of premeditated thoughts, but a journal can be a great way to practice improv when you’re alone. Here a few ways to journal for improv.
Stream of consciousness
This first technique is about as close as you can get to improv while alone. Stream of consciousness writing will help to jumpstart your creativity. Set a timer, start with five minutes, and don’t stop writing, no matter what. Even if you have to write, “I have no idea what to write,” keep going. This exercise requires your subconscious mind to keep making choices and embrace the process of not knowing. To make things a little easier, before you start writing you can give yourself a suggestion or write with a goal in mind. Some suggestions including playing in a point-of-view (POV), connecting to an emotion, or solving a made-up problem. Try looking online for various writing prompts.
When something feels off about your work and you want to connect better with your scene partners, try gratitude journaling. Sometimes we can get down on ourselves and forget about how great we are. As improvisers, you and your scene partners are brave and inventive. Imaginative. Creative. Our scene partners give us valuable feedback and gifts in the form of ideas, but if we forget that, it’s easy to lose touch with the ensemble and stop listening to each other. To remedy this, write down the moments on stage that you appreciate. Expressing gratitude for yourself and your team can be incredibly rewarding and important.
Keeping a record
The great thing about keeping a journal is that it serves as a physical record for you to reflect on later down the road. Try keeping a weekly record of your thoughts and feelings about improv. If you’re someone who is passionate about improv and see yourself doing this for years to come, this is one way of helping yourself to grow as your progress and change as a performer. Jot down a few notes every week about where you are and how you feel you improvised. When you look back on these logs later when you get stuck, you can analyze what got you there.