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Why I Take Improv Classes When I Do Not Want a Career as an Actress

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Ashleigh NicholsI believe it is important to always be working towards my goal of producing and directing my own projects (as well as being able to live off of those projects alone). I am not there yet, I have a day job, I work in production. I have worked for years on all kinds of things, from low budget films, to docu-series to Network television. During my freetime, I have kept myself busy working on all my side projects. I had also wanted to take classes but had not been able to fit them in my schedule…until recently.

I have been taking Improv classes this year. I have been lucky enough to make it work with my schedule, which had always been a struggle in the past. The freelance/production lifestyle does not always allow for extracurricular activities, but I work hard to make it to each class and I am glad I do. There are a number of reasons I have continued to do so. I would like to share them with you. Perhaps it will encourage you to take a class, not necessarily Improv, but perhaps another class you have been thinking of taking for a while and have not made the commitment yet.

One of the biggest reasons I started taking Improv classes was to meet people. That sounds a bit strange, perhaps even a bit lame, I know. It’s a good way to make new friends, but not just for that reason. As someone who creates her own content, I am constantly in need of cast and crew. I thought it might be a good place to meet people who are not in my circles already. I wanted to widen my actor pool. I have met people from around Los Angeles in my classes who have all kinds of backgrounds and bring new and interesting characters to life each week in class. I love when I get inspired by my classmates. Improv class is a great way to “audition” for future talent. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram make it very easy to stay connected after the class ends. For my last project I needed a couple of actors for a scene and my fellow classmates were thrilled to help out. It was a win win. I knew what kind of work they would bring to the table and they got to come play for a while.

Most of the students in my improv classes want to be actors, but there are many of them who work other jobs while they go after that goal. I have met producers, Pilates Instructors, Teachers, Editors, Yoga Teachers, Make Up Artists and Writers in these classes. I have met people who want to collaborate and people who want to come help me out with projects. It is so exciting to make a new connection for future productions.

As a director and/or Producer, it is important to be able to talk to and understand your actor’s points of view about their characters. They may differ from what you think the character should do/ say/ or be like, so its nice to be able to stand in their shoes and think about the character the way they see themselves playing it. Improv helps with this. In the improv world, you do not have time to prepare what the scene is about, it is just unfolding as you perform it. It is new for you, your scene partner and the audience. This helps the performer you hired to bring your characters to life and to be able to jump right in with a note you have given them or a change in dialogue.

I know that so far my reasons for taking an Improv class have been very much in the business way of thinking. Those are not my only reasons. I am a creative person, I think everyone who works in Production in some aspect is creative. You may not work a typically creative job, but we all are working in this industry for a reason. I love getting to go to class and be creative and just being on the spot. I get to play for 4 hours a week and I can be and say anything I want. Yeah there are rules of Improv…but I can still play within those rules, or with the rules if I really feel like it.

Often times when I am working, I feel a lack of creativity. I mean, I get to solve a lot of problems and help coordinate creative ideas for a project (and I love that) but I still feel like I need to make creative choices that are my own. Taking a class, specifically Improv, allows me to do this. I get to let my creative side come out and not be put on the back burner to the more practical side and its points of view. If you find yourself in a similar place, perhaps you should take a class, maybe improv is not for you. Perhaps writing, painting, poetry, baking or any of the other classes offered out there would be a better fit.

I also find that I do not put myself first in most the things I do in my life. Taking this class is for me. It is something that is my own thing and I get to turn off my phone, not check the Twitter feed, not worry about the permit that was not ready for our shoot at the time I walked into class and just focus on what my instructor is saying and “Yes and” the heck out of what my scene partner just said.

Ashleigh Nichols

About Ashleigh Nichols

Ashleigh Nichols resides in Los Angeles with her husband, Eddie, and their Chihuahua mix, Nova. Together they work on their own projects as a wife-husband directing/producing/writing team. Through Owlet Pictures, they created the web series Coffee Shop Squatters, and the award winning short film Summer of the Zombies. Ashleigh is also working on a dramatic feature and creating a new web series, set to shoot later this year. While not working on her own projects, Ashleigh is currently an in house Production Manager at Ampersand Media. Before going in house she Production Managed several shows/Pilots for Comedy Central, HBO Go and Vh1, some of these include: The Jeselnik Offensive, The Burn, The Ben Show, Brody Stevens: Enjoy It! and Parental Discretion S2. Ashleigh is also honored to have Co-Produced the indie film The Historian, currently touring on the festival circuit.