There are thousands of ways and thousands of opinions on how best to perform improv. But the one thing we all have in common is that we’re on stage, performing it. I say, regardless of style or method or school or approach or whatever, if our audience is paying money to see us, we had better work on the necessary tools to make it worth their time. So here’s my first installment of a series I’m going to call: Perform Like You Mean It! No matter if you’re doing improvised Brecht or a flowy donut montage you decided to do 5 minutes before you walked on stage, you can up your game considerably by working on the tools I’m going to lay out in the next few posts.

First up, a naughty little piece about mouth work.

Diction Friction – 5 Tips to Clean Up Your Improvised Dialogue

If you’re onstage, you want to be heard. You want to have presence. You want to look like you know what you’re doing. This confidence not only enamors the audience into following you down the improv rabbit hole, but it helps them hear the dialogue better. They can’t respond, they can’t INVEST in your imaginary world if they are uncomfortably leaning forward trying to understand you. As all things improvised, you have to practice your moves BEFORE you hit the stage, so you can let go and play the show you’re in. I recommend doing the following steps with your favorite book or script, and then making a mindful approach in rehearsal with your troupe, and then putting it in a show.

DICTION: The style of enunciation in speaking or singing.

  1. Do it with a pencil in your mouth. Go ahead and put a pencil in your mouth. Horizontal please. Now, talk. Talk so I can understand you. Feel that? It’s your mouth getting a nice workout. These are the muscles you need to deftly manipulate on stage for maximum clarity. It’s okay to be a little sore after a healthy lesson. It means it’s working.

  2. Work the Tongue – Twisters are easy to find, hard to say. You can add this to your pencil workout. And when you’re doing them really well, add in step 3.

  3. Spit It Out. A Plosive is the consonant heard at the end of words ending in D, T, B, and P. Most people don’t hit these in their daily lives, but pay attention to any stage play worth it’s salt and you’ll hear the ends of each word fly deftly out of an actors mouth to land in your ear holes with crisp clarity. Just remember: Hit your words on the back end. They like that.

  4. Record Yourself Doing It. To really know where you need work, record yourself. It’s easy to do an audio recording capture on your smart phone, and when you’re ready, draw a bath, light some candles and listen to yourself. Take note of when you’re being clear and where you need work. It’s hot to give yourself helpful feedback. Hot and steamy!

  5. Practice Makes Perfect. You can’t get better if you don’t do it a lot. Repeat steps 1 through 4 until it becomes second nature to speak with clarity. And remember, EASY does it tiger. Overdoing it is just as uncomfortable as under doing it. You want to be a natural.
Now go forth and perform like you mean it!
Written by Sarah Marie Curry