2017-2018 Season,  The Glorious Story Emporium

Intersecting Improvisations: Where Short Skits Meet Long Yarns

by Pollyanna Eyler, Dramaturg

Children love to watch impromptu stories unfold and come to life, especially stories they can take part in, such is the way of improvisation. As a child, I loved acting out these made up stories with my siblings and the neighborhood kids. We didn’t own a camera, so we would just pretend to take turns making the motion of “rolling a camera” to “film” our story, and whenever possible, we’d perform our show in front of neighbors. It wasn’t until later that I realized that people actually “act” out stories “live” in front of a group of people called an “audience,” that the people performing are known as “actors” and that the process is called a “play.”

Pollyanna (age 3) with her own real ‘Daddy Warbucks’ who would adopt her five years later and then take her that same year to see her first play, Annie.


The year I was adopted, my new “official” Dad took me to see an actual play, the Broadway production of Annie on National Tour; (of course, I didn’t realize the significance at the time) and the seed was planted. As a Mom, I continued the art of impromptu storytelling, interspersed with songs. I made up short stories at bedtime or long ones on road trips to visit family.

Here at Brigham Young University, we are proud to present live storytelling in The Glorious Story Emporium in long form improv. The difference between long form and short form improv is more than just stage time. Long form improv follows a story arch and may begin with one of a number of basic plots … one of my favorites is “apocalypse” or “disaster movie” and yet the storyline may take on a life of its own following suggestions from the audience. Unlike long form improv, short form improv skits are quick situations that the actors or participating audience members are trying to tie up quickly and may be in competition with another group doing the same situation or a similar one. Short form improv is ideal as a warm-up exercise for a drama class, for guests at a party, or multiple short form improvs end to end may add up to the length of a show’s worth. However, one long form improv will usually fill an entire evening’s worth of entertainment.

For the “rest of the story” on the long and the short of improvisation types, check out this link:  https://bigbluedoor.org/2013/02/18/whats-the-difference-between-long-and-short-form-improv/ 

One Comment

  • Calee Gardner

    I love both types of improv. They both involve using “improv” muscles. It is like long and short twitch muscles for running, they both help to get the job done, but certain muscles are associated with certain movements, but both help the runner be be in running shape. I remember when I was learning to improv, I did not have so much trouble with games that included creating a character or a story, but I had a harder time coming up with one liners like some of the improvisers I was working with. While working on The Glorious Story Emporium, I have really learned the value of remembering the little details thrown out by the audience or by my fellow actors. Something as simple as a name or previous plot circumstance can make a huge difference in the cumulative power of the show. Long form is creating a world in which the character live. The idea is for it to see like it it could have been a rehearsed story, but all a long you know that it is really just being made up on the spot.
    I would say that it is not bad to take ideas from other beloved stories. Other characters or motifs that you find in the work of other writers or characters. The important thing is taking those ideas and using them to create something new. That is the magic of improv, making something from nothing.

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