Fear doesn't belong in improv. In fact, we learn to embrace it. Yes, it exists and we face it, smile at it, make it work for us. There are times when we might not be aware fear is creeping into our improv. That's the thing with fear, it's sneaky. Recognizing fear is on stage with you allows you to control it and it no longer controls you.
Here are 4 sneaky ways fear might be taking over your improv scenes.
We've all seen or felt this fear. We make a statement. Instead of shutting up and letting our partner respond, we continue to talk. It's because fear is now whispering in our ear, "hey, that statement you just made, it's probably not good enough. Keep talking until I say it's good enough". Here's the thing, IT IS GOOD ENOUGH. In fact, YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH. So get mindful about your over-talking.
You might even ask your teacher, teammates, or classmates to restrict the amount of words you can say per sentence. When you hit the word quota, they can tell you "all good". It will build the habit of less is more and fear will have to move on!
Improv scenes are to take place in a state of action. Asking questions puts you in the opposite state. It's also a sign you are playing from a place of fear. Not making active decisions means you can't be wrong and if you can't be wrong then you won't ever mess up. Fear doesn't want you to take risks. Improv requires that you do. Next time you feel a question bubbling up, ask it silently to yourself, then say out loud the answer you have. This will help make a passive statement into an active one. Also, it reminds fear that your the boss!
Forgetting to listen
It's hard to listen when fear is just chatting away. It's hard to listen when you are still working on specific skills and trying to make everything feel more automatic. Thing is, it's essential. You could be doing so many other things well but if you aren't listening it doesn't matter.
At the atomic level, improv is listening and reacting moment by moment between two people. Fear would rather you put on ear muffs and do your thing. This way you won't have to run the risk of failure. It hurts everyone in the end though if you aren't truly listening so tell fear to shove off and get back to fully paying attention to the person in front of you!
Selling out your scene partner
Yeah, you might get a laugh. You might show the audience you know better by calling out something your partner just did. You might even for a brief moment, feel better about yourself. It won't last long because that was fear making those decisions. If you are selling out your scene partner(s) then you what you really fear is your own abilities as an improviser.
So face them and do something about it. It might be taking more classes. It might be some significant self-reflection. Hell, it might even require therapy. Whatever the reason, selling out your scene partner is super uncool and its all fear. Get good at what you do and support your partner. Once you do that, fear has no place to go other than away for good!