The story of a Golden Globe nominated actress who’s done much of it and advice to those who want to do it!

In 1968, I gave what I believe was one of my best performances in a play:  Country Dance, written by a wonderful writer, James Kennaway, who also wrote the script for great movie Tunes of Glory.  James sadly died later that year in a car accident and we lost one of our brightest writing talents.  Country Dance was a metaphor for Scottish country dancing, in which you are always changing partners.  The three main characters are a brother and sister and her husband, the woman Hilary, loves her slightly dull but devoted husband, but has a strong attraction, sexual and intellectual to her upperclass brother, who has the same feeling for her.  She “dances” between the two men, throughout the play.  

Edward Fox (The Day of the Jackal) played brother Charles and Stuart Mungall played the husband.   The Director decided that Edward and I should work on some improvisation, playing Hilary and Charles as children and how their dangerous relationship might have developed.   We really got into it, playing wild children is some really creative and outrageous improvisation, until the Director lost his nerve and decided that the whole exercise had gone far enough and that was the end of a very creative period of rehearsal.  However the improv work really helped the play and we got excellent reviews.

Recently I decided to go back and have another go at Improvisation and joined a local class here in Boise.  The experience was different this time as I had no point of reference….a script, a character from which to work.  The class really achieved its purpose for me, try something new with new people and get me right out of my comfort zone…rather like flying without a parachute.  The class was taught by a young actor Sean Hancock, aided on occasion by his Improv partner Austin van Johnson..the pair appear regularly on stage in Idaho and elsewhere and are very talented.   Here they are in their recent short film:  Make it Count:  

The class was filled mainly with non actors, people in the normal world, who were doing the class to build confidence and learn better communication skills and how to better to engage with people, largely in their work environment…Sean does a lot of corporate work.  It was an excellent experience for me and working in a very warm and sympathetic atmosphere with people not there to show off their acting “chops”, was a very good experience and I will do more.  We should never stop learning and growing!

3 thoughts on “IMPROV THEN AND NOW

  • Thank you for writing this. I had scenes in an independent film with someone who was playing my wife. Improving how our life might have been, children, arguments, etc. proved very valuable. I’ll be doing more as well!


    • It’s a useful and important tool in our business…thank you for commenting…

      • Oh dear….I had intended this to be a fairly light hearted blog about me and the usefulness of exercise to me as an actor in a physically and mentally demanding job, not a lecture to other people telling them what to do. As individuals with choices and views we must all do what works for us…I agree about diets and the commercialisation of the whole health issue and the current ‘bullying’ culture…just my thoughts on the subject and what it does for me. Thanks for taking the time to write!

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