Improv is Harder Than it Sounds

Just over a week ago on Saturday April. 2 2022, my team and I competed in the improv challenge for Destination Imagination. This is not the first time I have been in one of these competitions, if you want to read about the first time click here. This was however my first year being on an improv team. This meant learning new skills as a team, and finding new solutions to overcome problems we faced.

Destination Imagination is a hands-on, project-based learning experience. It encourages creativity, collaboration, communication and critical thinking. Every year there are seven new Challenges created for students from K to Grade 12. Destination Imagination applies the creative process to help students create their own unique solutions to the challenge they’ve chosen.

In the secondary level your team had to research 10 festivals from around the world. At the tournament one would be drawn randomly, you then had to incorporate it into your skit. A goal and a fork in the road was also drawn at random. Your character had to try and accomplish this goal during the skit. Then at halfway your fork in the road was revealed and you were given a choice between two random thing to include in the second half of your skit. The only props your allowed is a set of 10 cardboard boxes that you use to help enhance the skit. To learn more about the challenges click here.

Improvising while it may seem or sound easy, is not. Especially with a group. When you have scripted lines everyone knows when to speak, where to go, and whats happening next. When your improvising all of this, it can quickly turn to chaos. Whether it be everyone is talking, or your all waiting for someone else to talk. I am someone who likes to know what’s going on. Working on an improv team pushed my willingness to go with the flow and follow others lead sometimes. This is actually a skill I’ve been wanting to practice more and being on this team really helped. I had to trust my teammates in knowing what was going to happen next, and being able to adapt and go with where they took the story.

My team was made up of five of my classmates including me. Jakub, Ethan, Logan, Quinn and I, all worked together to build trust as a team and learn as much as we could about each festival. 

One of the things we struggled most with was getting our communication really good in the two minute prep time we had. From the start this wasn’t something we particularly struggled with so it wasn’t on our top priority list to work on. We focused on other things such as our acting, learning about a the festivals, and finding new and interesting ways to use our cardboard boxes. When I look back at our final performance, something I think that could have really improved our skit was knowing key points of the plot. Which was all made up during the two minutes we had to plan. We often would talk over each other, or have small side conversations that made what others were sharing get lost in the mix of words being spoken. Now I’m not saying our communication was bad, but that in the end I think it should have been something we worked on that would have been beneficial to our skit. 

Now even though we may not have come in first, I do think we did some things well. During our practices something we worked on was finding a role that people felt comfortable in. So for those who were more stage shy, a smaller role, and those more comfortable would play a main character. We tried to learn where we each fit, and how that worked together with everyone else. During the beginning, we would always practice with a narrator. At one of our first dress rehearsals we got the feedback that using a narrator was almost like a cheat, have someone tell the story instead of acting it all out as a group. After that we worked on not using one, and each paying a character involved in the plot. 

I think a lot of people that get put in the improv team take it as a way out of work. When you compare it to all the other challenges it seems so easy. You don’t need to build anything, or write a storyline, or create anything physical that takes time and effort. This doesn’t mean that the team should be doing less work. Practicing and learning as a team and figuring out every team members strength and weaknesses is very important for preforming. Knowing that someone is good at one thing and using that strength in your performance can be powerful. If you don’t take the time to learn that, your acting as a group won’t be at it’s full potential.

As this was my last time competing in Destination Imagination (as far as I know) I will say I do see how this is a great way to get kids working together, and I know I have learned important skills from participating in this event. I hope others can see that to, or one day come to realize what they learnt from it.