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  • Writer's pictureFeña Ortalli

The 4 Stages of Impro

Updated: Feb 12

It's interesting to see how certain patterns repeat themselves, how certain behaviors replicate beyond cultural, social, or situational differences. In our field, resistant to repetition, we cannot escape the same system of proliferation of improvisation.

Based on this observation, I identified four stages: The Germ, The Division, The Atomization, and The New Paradigm.

Stage 1: The Germ

Generally, everything begins with a "culprit," a person who brings novelty, the new toy, that different way of doing theater: impro. This person concentrates their power by creating (and directing) the first company in the city, bringing together a group of enthusiasts with more curiosity, will, and desire than experience. Through a simple and effective format, they gain followers, and the audience begins to join. After a while, relative success and egos play a decisive role.

Stage 2: The Division

The group begins to waver in the face of the first storms, and artistic (and personal) differences play a fundamental role. The first break occurs, and the group splits. Competition is born. Now there are two groups competing for the same audience. Competition makes them better, and differentiation becomes a matter of survival. Adaptation. Reinvention. Over time, these two new companies generate their own style, their own school, their own students, who will eventually replicate the formula.

Stage 3: The Atomization

As students multiply and people need space to grow, the atomization stage occurs, a Big Bang that expels groups, some more ephemeral than others, with diverse expectations and results. Impro expands quantitatively (and rarely qualitatively) until they realize (usually later rather than sooner) that unity is strength and begin to wonder what would happen if they broke that paradigm. They wonder what is outside their belonging groups, outside their comfort zone.

Stage 4: The New Paradigm

Stable and rigid companies give way to occasional groups. People begin to gather based on artistic affinity and shows start to gain theatricality, depth, criteria, and meaning. Public success takes a back seat, and the focus shifts to research. I improvise with people who seek the same as me. Qualitative growth takes precedence over quantitative growth. The cycle is broken.

I'm sure you're wondering which stage your local community is in. Analyze its details and peculiarities and try to identify which of these evolutionary steps your impro microcosm is in.

It is crucial to know the previous experience to avoid making the same mistakes and falling into the same traps. While this process unfolds fairly organically and unconsciously, it is also susceptible to change.

Who does it depend on? Guess. Yes, on you. We are all potential agents of change. You just have to take action.

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