Arnie Burton takes a look at adding improvisation to scripted scenes.

…When people think of improvisation, they usually think of groups like Second City or the Groundlings. Those performers are trained to create on their feet without a script, writing their own play from moment to moment. But what about legit theater, where you’re working with the playwright’s words and the story he or she is telling? I believe it’s important to bring a sense of improvisation to the work, though not by making up your own story or words. I mean a subtler form of improv, one that’s more within than without.

Performing in a comedy is a constant balancing act. The work you do is the same you would do for a drama, but a comedy has additional requirements. At the risk of sounding pretentious, it calls for a mix of discipline and abandon, of science and jazz. I say jazz because I believe comedy is like music. It’s about rhythm. I’ve had the great fortune of working on many plays by David Ives, and David’s writing has a particular rhythm. You have to understand it. You meet David’s rhythm; you don’t try to force his rhythm to meet yours. You do your work and let David’s rhythm take you. You let go and play—like jazz.

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