The ability to listen is the most important tool in the improviser’s toolbox. This has been said in one way or another so often that it seems to be a cliché as well as common knowledge. The assumption usually goes that it refers to listening to the other player so that you can take his or her choice and go with it. But, in fact, listening works on at least three levels.
First, you listen to the other actor. It takes off a lot of the pressure to be funny, clever and brilliant (which if you’re listening you already are those things). When you listen to the other actor, you just respond honestly, and the rest will happen. Second, you are listening to yourself. Develop the ability to pay attention to your own impulses and intuitive choices and the ability to sort out the noise of self-judgment that gets in the way of those intuitive choices, and you’re “good to go.” Thirdly, there is the listening to the audience – their response will help you know what choices to continue to explore, and which to let go of.
So, develop the ability to listen simultaneously to the other player, to your own intuition, and to the audience. In the shared space between you, the other players, and the audience, imagination becomes reality and the space is transformed. It’s a surprise to everyone and the sound of that surprise is laughter.