All posts by Steve Jarand

Difference Engine

In improvisation, contrast and variety are invaluable. After a hilarious scene, a touching story has great impact. If the pace is frenetic, something slow and simple becomes remarkably satisfying. Breaking patterns keeps the audience (and players) alert and interested because they are curious about what might come next.

Working with an awareness of what has come before feeds our inspiration. Given the challenge of posing one thing against another, creativity becomes effortless and a broad range of scenes naturally emerge. A love story between giants. A desert island. A battle royale of millions of sperm.

This workshop will help you use opposites and contradiction to fuel (choiceless) choices and bring freshness to characters, setting, mood and emotion. You’ll experience how meaning and engagement arises not just from immediate content, but the larger context surrounding it. Your improvisation with run smoothly under the power the Difference Engine.

The Success of Failure

We all know, at least on some level, that when we make mistakes and have to solve problems to rectify them, that’s when we learn the most.

Yet in our society, failure is looked upon as a sign of weakness or incompetence as if the successful, competent people have always run smoothly forward without ever stumbling or falling down.

We need a forum where failing is encouraged, supported and nurtured.

Impro is that place.

It is the arena where we can play full-force without fear of screwing up. Where the screw-ups are rewarded and turned into talent.

In this workshop we will practice both the winning and losing sides of games and play. We’ll experience what it is like to flow creatively without planning, judgement or fear. We will connect deeply with the other players exposing the faults and blunders we all have in common.

We’ll make mistakes meaningful and failure a success.

Jump Then Justify

How do we tell a story with no plan? How do we co-ordinate with several people to stay on the same inspired road

and venture into the future together? These are ongoing Impro mysteries to solve.

But there’s a simple trick to moving fearlessly forward. It’s not a short cut or a cheap gimmick, it’s a new perspective on storytelling and an essential way to approach Impro.

Think backwards!

Do something first and find out why later. And the ‘why’ may have something to do with what already exists or has been implied.

Suddenly our improvisation springs to life with many moments of surprise and discovery. We drop responsibility and the stress of wondering or worrying about the future, because we know we can make sense of whatever happens. And the audience is rewarded because we assemble the story puzzle by activating their memories and reincorporating material that they have already given value to.

Kiss someone, seemingly for no reason.

Just start running and you’ll know where you’re going.

Jump from the bridge and the meaning with fall into place.

Trance Masks ….

The final chapter of Keith’s Johnstone’s book Impro (©1979, Methuen) describes tribal mask transformations and possession cults as well as a beginner mask class for actors and improvisers.

Some people are perplexed by the mask chapter, some are instantly intrigued, or even haunted by the images it conjures and the potential power the mask holds.
Curiosity, excitement, facing anxiety  –  for various reasons students have come to mask classes where they have experienced the freedom from self-critique that the Trancemasks have to offer.

Find out more about how Trancemasks work or join a Trancemask/Full Mask workshop and experience for yourself what happens when we conjure “the thing in the mirror”.


Full masks…

Also called “tragic masks”, full masks can put an actor in a state of receptivity towards themselves, other players and the audience.

Without the voice to rely on, the body speaks truth and betrays what is hidden.

A fundamental shift in the actor’s perspective is gained when the perspective of the viewer is fully embraced. The full mask player doesn’t need to act anymore but simply to illuminate the stories in the minds of audience members and enhance the images and emotions latent in the scene.

Have a look at how we develop the Full Masks in our workshops.


If you can improvise, you can do anything!

The moment we unblock our self-judgment even a little bit, we experience how creativity flows.

The more we create in a playful way and learn hard lessons with lightness and resilience, the more our fears begin to dissolve.

Then the real tools of Impro begin to develop.

Impro, however is not just about ability on stage. Skills learned in Impro can (and will) be used throughout our lives.

Playing out and playing with elements of our lives and our behaviour can be exhilarating and curative. Looking into the way we are and the problems we have is like a rehearsal towards solving them or preventing issues from surfacing in the first place.

The next time you are challenged by something in life, you’ll just think, “ I can handle it. I’m an improviser.”

More about Impro Workshops.