History of Improv in Themed Spaces
As part of the required curriculum for the experience design program, I all of a sudden found myself enrolled in an improv class 😱. I have to admit, I was definitely a little anxious about taking this class… and it initially seemed a little farfetched in terms of relevancy to me, but I’m happy to report that I have survived the experience and am now a true convert and believer in the importance of improv FOR ALL — I highly recommend stepping out of your comfort zone for a little improv action. I’ve witnessed firsthand the benefits in terms of public speaking, collaborative group management, confidence, the list goes on…
Why improv? If we return to the idea of experience designers as vivid storytellers and creative collaborators, this begins to make sense! Improvisational skills and techniques are amazing tools not only for creating immersive spaces, but for facilitating the creative process as well.
While we spent a majority of class practicing and performing, we also spent time writing research papers driven by an improv topic of our choice. I focused on the history of improv applications as it relates to themed spaces for the sake of entertainment and immersion, and was fascinated by what I learned.
When guests visit a theme park such as Disneyland or Knott’s Berry Farm, a magical transformation occurs where the world as we know it disappears and is replaced by fantasy. During this transformation, the suspension of disbelief, or the willingness to put aside logic and doubt for the sake of enjoyment and truly believing in a story or space, becomes critical. There are a number of different ways this phenomenon can transpire with the focus being on creating an immersive experience. Along with landscape, building designs, attractions, memorable stories and more, characters and their ability to improvise play a big role in story immersion.
Take a look at the rest of the essay here: The History and Significance of Improv in Themed Spaces, by Lyndie Raymond, 2018.