As a teacher and voice over performer, I talk ad nauseam about the benefits of improv in voice acting. See this example and this one. But if a voice actor avoids an improv class due to fear, then my going on and on about its benefits doesn’t matter. So let’s tackle fear. Big, old, ugly fear. Here are five ways to conquer your fear of trying improv, or anything new.
1. IMAGINE THE WORST
Let’s imagine that you’re in an improv class and you give a “bad” idea for a scene, then what? Do you burst into flames; setting fire to those around you, the building and the entire block? Probably not. I don’t mean to make light of your concerns, but if you play out your fear to its worst possible conclusion, you may find that the big catastrophe only occurs in your mind. In reality, you may feel momentarily vulnerable or judged, and then the class will move on. The consequences of your participation are bearable.
2. EDUCATE YOURSELF
Did you know that improv has rules and boundaries? And that failure is cheered and applauded? That’s right. It’s not a free-for-all and mistakes are encouraged. Ease your fear by knowing what to expect. Research the school or instructor, and read about improv basics. Get started with a short and fun article by Tina Fey on the rules of improv.
3. BRING A FRIEND
This is a tried and true antidote to combat the fear of something new. Share your anxiety with your friend before you go. They may have the same nervousness, and sharing it will lighten your outlook. In those moments in the class when you feel on the spot, you will have a guaranteed ally. And think of the fun you’ll have sharing an experience.
4. THINK BIG PICTURE
Fear can make us think myopically and feel small. Encourage yourself to think about the end goal of why you are trying improv. Perhaps you want to increase your spontaneity in the booth, expand your skills on your resume, or work with a producer or director that values improv. Maybe you’re moving and improv will help you better compete in your new market. Focus on your end goal to stay excited about results and reduce shrinking from your fear of an imagined outcome.
5. TREAT YOURSELF AS YOU WOULD OTHERS
What if a good friend said that in order to move up at work they had to take an accounting class, but they didn’t want to because they were afraid of detailed math? You would likely give them a pep talk encouraging them to face their fear because of the big rewards. Give yourself that same pep talk. Meet your fear head on by sitting down and giving yourself the same heart-to-heart that you would give to someone else. Include all the love, encouragement, and non-judgment that you would give to them, and be sure to include how much you believe in yourself.
I hope that these ideas help break through your fear of trying improv. If you can get past that fear even temporarily, you’ll open endless possibilities. Give yourself a chance to be in the moment, however that feels, and follow your instinct from a class to the booth.
by Clay Robeson October 1, 2020
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