Spring 2022

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T he ability to excel at improv is something of a superpower. Performers, eq uipped only with their wits, are seemingly making something out of nothing and making it seem effortless and, most importantly, entertaining. But in reality, that spontaneity takes training, practice, cooperation and a healthy dose of mental agility. It's so much fun," said Cheryl Hines, who plays Larry David's ex-wife on ur our nt usiasm The hit show is filmed without a scrit, so when the scene starts, no one knows how it will go and that's where the comedy alchemy begins. I still remember very early on, it might have been the first season, and we were doing a scene with my parents.' And the actress that was playing my mother asked Larry in the scene if he had a mint. And he dug around in his pocket and found a loose mint this is while we're rolling! He said, I found one' and] she said, I'm not going to eat that out of your pocket.' And he said, Well, you asked for one.' And I just remember thinking, Oh my God, we're shooting a TV show and talking about a loose mint that Larry had in his pocket in real life but now it's part of the scene, and it's hilarious, because that's life." On ur our nt usiasm , Hines said, performers will often do warmups backstage, where performers will stand in a circle and go around and tell a story one word at a time. She said the exercise helps her dial in to what her scene partners are saying. nce filming egins, they do etween two and si takes of each scene, depending on how many people are involved, she said. Larry writes a story outline, so you know the broad strokes, and you don't talk about the scene or the information until the camera starts rolling. And if you're listening, it will all be right there." Not every actor will get the opportunity to ad lib with Larry David, but having those skills and understanding the fundamentals of improv is something nearly every erformer can enefit from, even for those who would rather stick to the script. I think every actor should have training in improv. It will make you a stronger actor, and it's really helpful for auditioning," said Hines, who received her improv training at The Groundlings Theatre. Learning how to improvise has helped me in every way with scripted roles t hels you feel confident that if something happens in the scene that's unexpected, you will be able to stay in character and deal with that moment." It may sound counterintuitive that improvisation req uires preparation and practice, but Upright Citizens Brigade Training Center Director of ducation Johnny Meeks notes that it is a skill that must be learned like any other. Improv and sketch training is not a replacement for traditional acting training, but it can provide more acting tools for a variety of situations. One of the easiest ways to see that is in a commercial audition, where you're often asked to ad lib or improvise or even just put a button at the end of the audition you're doing," he said. The ability to think uickly on your feet during the critical moments of an audition can make the difference between getting cast and losing out on the role. Improvisational acting is most closely associated with comedic performances, and that's where an actor's mastery of the skill is most evident. Meeks and his colleagues train students to uickly identify what's funny about a scene so that they can focus on that element, add to it and heighten the humor. The asic idea is yes, and That is, first you must | Spring 2022 | SAGAFTRA 77 Cheryl Hines, right, with Larry David in the largely improvised HBO comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm. GETTY IMAGES JOHN P. JOHNSON HBO

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