To Improv, or Not To Improv- that is the question
Updated: May 26
Lisa Jan Sherman
’ACT AS IF’
Improvisational Activities Book for Social Communication
‘What’ is Improvisation?
Have you experienced being in the audience of an Improvisational show, or taken an Improv workshop? Yes? Then you know, rather than scripted, Improvisation is a stage performance technique that is interactive and based on audience suggestion.
My Improvisational Troupe, ‘NOW THIS’ had a successful 27-year run. We made up scenes, characters, and songs, all ‘In the Moment.’
The audience laughed and cried as they witnessed that all answers and responses did not need to be ‘perfect’ moments; we made it up!
The actor, during performance, can speak from real experience, or fictionalized moments using imagination.
The ‘Why’ of Improvisation for Social Skills?
Aside from being enjoyable and entertaining, guided, socially focused, Improv activities are a natural way to present tools for learning social engagement, while attaining ‘relationship’ appropriate response.
The practice of using improv activities is a great way to gain intuition, ‘reading the room’ and once in the room, with others- proxemics come into play.
And of course, improvisation helps us all gain empathy, setting us up for successful real-time moments and socio-emotional connection.
‘How’ do you Improvise?
Most of us improvise in our everyday lives; we seem to make it through interactions with our families, friends, and colleagues. We gain practice and experience (success and failure) in these regular communications. We understand how to relate in a confident way.
‘What’ if those natural exchanges aren’t happening in real life?
Yes, some of us need assistance, techniques for recreating moments and scenes, of action and response, verbally and nonverbally. Some schools offer programs.
Those living with an anxiety disorder, ASD, SCD, or who are neurodivergent, these activities would allow them an opportunity to achieve increased social success.
All should be given the opportunity for a focused space and time to recreate life challenges and find some supportive options.
‘WHO’ are ACT AS IF Improv activities for?
For Teachers and Practitioners; it’s a guide to use with kids/young adults/adults where there may be a lack of social engagement with friends and family.
And then a designated Social Skills group can ‘create’ a safe space for this ‘slice of life’ to happen.
We process communication by ‘actively doing’ – responding, asking questions, repeating, making mistakes, fixing, redoing-redon’ting…Experiencing success and failure can be within the same scene.
‘Where’ do we do it if not on stage?
Life is not a rehearsal; we are not all players on a stage, and we are not all expected to be professional performers.
A stage is not needed, just a designated area where there can be ‘Audience’ and ‘Stage.’
Any safe space with an empathic facilitator, teacher, Speech Language Pathologist, or other therapist. This group can be held anywhere there is a social skills program, office, therapeutic space, after school programs and homeschooling groups.