Handy Improv Tips for Christmas Performers (part 1 of 3)

Improv Tips: part 1 of 3
Improv Tips: part 2 of 3
Improv Tips: part 3 of 3

Christmas Performers are unique. In our craft, we are re-enacting, singing, storytelling, and using a variety of performing skills. One of the ones we use all the time is a form of improv or improvisational theater. Unlike traditional acting, where everyone has specific lines and a script, we Christmas performers want to bring our character to life in a semi-spontaneous manner. After all, we never know what questions or things will come our way. If you want to be a great performer, taking some improv classes can really help. Here are the first three improv tips tweaked for Christmas Performers. Feel free to share and pass on!

1. Don’t go too crazy. If someone asks you about something specific like, “What do you feed the reindeer?” try to stay realistic. While “Moon Juice and Candy Cane grass” may sound like a fun answer, your goal is to have the audience believe in you. Your answers will be better believed if they are grounded in day-to-day information. In this case, reindeer take a liking to some lichen, and they love reindeer moss, leaves, grass, and mushrooms. In Santa’s case, you might mention carrots and occasional cookie. Reindeer also occasionally eat meat and eggs, but you don’t need to tell this to the children.

2. Listen carefully. It may be tempting, especially with children, to be flip and it is easy to misunderstand what is actually being asked or said. Try to look intently at the person you are talking to, with a gentle smile. Nod and pause to reflect on what they said. “Hmm, good question!” is a great way to acknowledge what was said. Your character is old and wise. This can save you, and it makes you look like you appreciate what they are saying. If a child asks, “How did you get here today?” and you answer off the cuff, “Sleigh and reindeer, of course!” don’t be surprised when the kids dive for the door to see your sleigh. A better answer might be, “Ah, good question. I walked of course! Okay, I walked a bit from the park, not from the North Pole. My reindeer are shy, and so I like leave them in the park. Then I came here and knocked on your door!”

3. Try not to say No. In improv, we try to avoid saying, “No, you are wrong.” Remember the Golden Rule of improv, “Always go for the agreement.” You are inviting them into your story to create a shared story. If someone says, “Santa only has nine reindeer,” you can say something like, “Yes, I have nine Famous Reindeer, and I bet you know their names. But did you know that I have a small herd? At the last count, I think there were 1,127 reindeer in the herd.” This can lead you into discussing reindeer and all the other things going on up at the North Pole. This helps define you as the narrator of the story.

Thanks for dropping by! Please share this site and feel free to suggest things you would like to see covered, and any input on these articles is much appreciated. Santa True will be teaching classes at Discover Santa in Branson.

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(Photo courtesy of Gremly Photography)

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