Fly and Catch

This phrase “I got your back” is often repeated amongst improvisors before a show.  What does this really mean? Do you really have your players’ backs?  Are you really able to receive what ever your players throw at you?  Are you able to commit to your choices and trust that these moments will be caught by the people who share the stage with you?  What would it look like to really train yourself like a trapeze artist, fully committing to your craft and to each other?

Improvisors are the trapeze artists of theatre.  We must hone our craft constantly to be able to courageously step into the unknown with our play mates- completely scriptless, without a net.  We must hone our confidence through honing our craft.  Study the world, stay up-to-date in current events, know our instrument inside and out, gain precision in space object, character, physicality, listening, and emotional expression and awareness.

And, we must do this so our play mates feel confident in our abilities.  Just as a trapeze artist must trust that the catcher on the other side has been training for this moment of flying into his/her strong able arms.  There will be no falling.  Only strength.  The flight always ends in a catch.

We must be willing to train hard for our play mates, and we must trust that our playmates are doing the same.

So if you are having some doubts in your performing ensemble, it’s time for a tough love conversation with YOURSELF and your PLAYERS.  What do you as an artist need to do to be confident in your own abilities, as both a flyer and a catcher?  What do you need from your play mates as both a flyer and a catcher?

Here are some tips for honing the roles of Flyers and Catchers as they apply to the art of improvisational ensemble theatre.


Dance like no one’s watching.  Freewrite. Karaoke.  Play with joyful abandon and celebrate the product.  Play Play Play!  Say yes to your choices and commit fully.  Breathe, and nurture your inner artist.  Practice playing 30 distinct characters in 30 minutes.  Stay in touch with current events and develop strong points of view about the world.  Embrace the fool, the ridiculous, the “not me.” With the joy-filled play, apply focus and control.  Work out, exercise, take a dance class, yoga, stretch.  Practice vocal exercises and breathing techniques.  Project your voice and resonate throughout your body.  Even though the trapeze artist is leaping into the air he/she still possesses control and precision.  FLY.


Listen.  With all of your six senses.  Say yes to your fellow players’ ideas.  Outloud.  Find the gold in every performer in your ensemble.  Write each person’s strengths out before rehearsal and tell them how much you genuinely love playing with them.  Get into a place where you cannot wait to hear what is going to come out of your fellow players’ mouths.  Yes AND!  Mirror, reflect, follow the follower.   Get curious about your partner’s choices, get curious about your players, as HUMAN BEINGS. Practice non-judgment, compassion, and unconditional love.  Uncross those arms and get ready to receive information.  Gaze at your players like a loving nurturing parent gazes at a newborn child. “You are perfect. Exactly as you are.” Practice receiving gifts from your fellow players and yes anding these gifts no matter what. Ask them to endow you with characters they could never see you playing, and play them. FULLY. COMPLETELY. WHOLEY.   CATCH.

Enjoy these amazing trapeze artists!  Gorgeous!


About Femprovisor
Femprovisor = Jill Eickmann, the founder and Artistic Director of Leela, San Francisco's premier long-form improvisational theatre company and training center. She also serves as an Associate Producer for the San Francisco Improv Festival.