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Virtual Quandary

How can you perform improv without a physical space in which to perform and interact — both with the audience and with other improvisers? How do you teach improv in that same scenario, with those same limitations?


You do it online. You use platforms such as Zoom or Streamyard. You take advantage of live video streaming on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and others.


When you do this, is the result any good? Is it worthwhile? Is it Improv?


That depends. Plenty of folks and plenty of organizations are doing it. They have little choice. Some are examples of the serious limitations of online interaction. Some rise above it and create something worth doing (and worth paying to be a part of).


Let's talk about teaching online. Can you gain a substantive knowledge of how to do improv when no two people are in the same room? Yes. It can be done. Instructors are making heroic efforts to tailor their curricula and teaching methods to take advantage of the new reality. And since improv has always been about creating new realities in every moment, the added challenges can create more resilient improvisers.


Perhaps performing or practicing improv online removes the impulse to play to the audience and do what you think it wants, moment by moment. Perhaps improvisers and students will now focus more closely on the craft itself, now that the "I need to be the class clown" element has been all but removed.


It can be done. I am tempted to say that instructors need to raise their game while students need to lower their expectations. But it's not about raising and lowering. It's about changing. Change your game. Change your expectations. If you're resistant to change, you aren't in the realm of improv. Improv is about listening. And true listening is and always has been the willingness to change.