I began telling people that the first step was to take an improv class. I had taken an improv class when I was younger and have continued to use so much of what I learned throughout my career. Improv teaches you to be in the moment, to create a 'character' and stick with it, to think fast on your feet, and as my friend Peter O'Connell recently pointed out on my Google+ page- it teaches you to listen.
So...I've decided to put my money where my mouth is and sign up for an improv class. I strongly believe that the learning should never stop and that one can't take too many classes. Especially when those classes help break up your routine, and get those creative juices flowing.
We had our first class this past Monday. What a fun and talented group! I had a basic idea of what to expect- each improv class is different, but many of the 'games' are the same. I don't want to give too much away because I think it's better to experience something than to read about it. However, there was one 'game' we played that is so very relevant to what I do as a voice actor.
The game was called 'You are the world's leading expert...' Our teacher gave each of us a topic- and with no prep time whatsoever we had to spend the next 5 minutes convincing the class we were the leading expert on that topic. It didn't matter what we said or how wrong we were- we had to convince everyone we were right. My topic was ice cream. I do love to eat ice cream, but I've never made it and really know nothing about it. Yet I found myself going on and on about the proper order to put the ingredients in the machine, how a flat wooden spoon is better to scoop with than a rounded metal scooper because it creates a more organic shape in the bowl...on and on. What was interesting was that the more I talked, the more I believed in what I was saying. And the more I believed it, the more convincing I was. When I was finished one classmate commented that they wanted to go to my ice cream shop!
This happened with every single student. They started off a little unsure- but then once their attitude shifted and they really believed what they were saying...so did we! People were coming up with some really ridiculous facts about drilling for oil, or creating a shoe, or wrestling an alligator. But the ones that allowed themselves to believe they truly were the experts were by far the most convincing. As voice actors (ahem...ACTORS), we have to be convincing every single day.
Someone in my class asked how improv could help my job...I mean, all I did was read a script, right? I explained that it takes more skill than anyone can imagine to convince an audience that this restaurant really is the best, that a brand of shoe really is the most comfortable and stylish, that this truck is really safer than that one. It isn't reading...it's explaining. And the more we believe in what we say, the more convincing we will be.
From now on when I am sent a script, I will be telling myself that I am the world's leading expert on this topic. I'm accepting what the writer says as my reality and believing in that reality so I can really deliver the message. Listen to your radio and TV- I promise you will be able to tell which voice actors are truly believing what they are saying and which are not.
Finally, whether you are thinking about getting into the business- or you've been doing this your entire life- I can't recommend improv enough. Just one class already has me thinking and reflecting. Thankfully, I have 7 more classes to go...and then 5 more levels. Because, after all...I am the world's leading expert.