Quite often at a wedding or similar family occasion, a distant relative will ask me over the buffet table, ‘So, how is your Am-Dram going?’ I used to get rather annoyed at this question but these days I totally get it. For those who have never tried it, what even is Improvisation and how is it any different from Acting?

Although I’ve been exclusively a professional improviser for some years now, there was a time when I did both, and a time before that when I dreamt of being an actor. So I feel well placed to talk about the similarities and differences between the two. And I think there is certainly a Venn diagram that encompasses both.

Firstly and most obviously, of course, is the lack of a script. Day 1 in the theatre rehearsal room will often involve a table read, then a script in hand, start the process of blocking the piece, right through to the off-the-book full dress just before opening night. 

Improv is a much quicker (and also much slower) process. There is no script and opening night is also closing night. Every night. Improvisers may create their show in the moment, but it also takes years of training to internalise the skills of actor, writer, director and all the other things needed to make a fully rounded improvisational performer.

As a result of this, improvisers can sometimes be a bit, well, apologetic. Great actors on the other hand have no apology about their performances. They have stage presence and charisma and the ability to make us forget that the character we are watching them play is not really them. Improvisers could learn a thing or two from Actors.

But if Actors already have a script, what can they learn from Improvisers? Here are 5 ways that practising improvisation can help Actors: 

  • 1. Enhancing Adaptability. In improv, actors must be ready to adapt to unexpected changes and challenges at a moment’s notice. Whether it’s a sudden shift in the direction of a scene or a new character introduced by a scene partner, improvisers learn to roll with the punches and stay flexible. This ability to adapt serves actors well in auditions, rehearsals, and performances, where last-minute adjustments are often necessary, but actors must retain character authenticity. 
  • 2. Developing Listening Skills. Effective improvisation relies heavily on listening and reacting to scene partners. Actors must pay close attention to their fellow performers, picking up on cues and building upon their contributions. Improv sharpens actors’ listening skills, enabling them to be more present and responsive on stage or in front of the camera. Improved listening translates into richer interactions and more nuanced performances in all acting contexts.
  • 3. Fostering Creativity. Improv encourages actors to think outside the box and explore unconventional ideas. In the absence of a script, performers are free to experiment, invent, and create on the spot, helping actors discover new ways to approach characters, scenes, and storytelling. The ability to tap into one’s creativity enhances an actor’s versatility and adds depth to their performances across different genres and styles.
  • 4. Strengthening Ensemble Skills. Improv is inherently collaborative, requiring actors to work together as a cohesive team. In fact good improv is almost not possible without a harmonious ensemble. This sense of camaraderie and mutual respect among actors translates into more authentic and believable interactions on stage or screen. Strong ensemble skills enable actors to connect more deeply with their scene partners and create compelling, believable relationships that resonate with audiences.
  • 5. Expanding Range. Improv offers actors opportunities to explore a wide range of emotions and physical choices in a safe and supportive environment. Through improvisation practice, the actor can delve into complex emotional states, from joy and excitement to sadness and anger, without the constraints of a script. This exploration helps actors expand their repertoire and deliver more nuanced and authentic performances.


In the end, both acting and improv require deep presence, and both are about sharing meaningful narratives of what it means to be human. Do you think improv could help you develop your acting craft? If so, why not come try one of our budget-friendly regular drop-in classes, a free taster session, or even sign up for a full course with our Level 1a. Or contact us directly to discuss some professional-level improv coaching for your theatre company.