Every successful improvisation needs to have a feeling of connectedness from its first moment to the last; that is, it needs to have the feeling that, in an organic, lived-through, directly-felt sense, each moment of the scene becomes the next which becomes the next, etc.

It is this quality which makes the piece feel real, because it is nonarbitrary. Things don’t happen haphazardly, they are inevitable (but also surprising.) Everything in the scene feels like it belongs in that scene and doesn’t belong in some other play. For an audience member, when you come to the end of a scene which has had a feeling of connectedness, it feels like you have lived through a whole, meaningful experience, not like the actors have been forcing you to wander around in a random pattern.

On the other hand, any disconnectedness in a scene, even of the slightest, tiniest kind, has disastrous consequences. You lose the audience’s trust in the scene on the spot, and you will have to work like mad to ever get it back. Since the performer, having disconnected herself from the scene, then has to reconnect to it, she creates the tiresome feeling that “the scene is beginning all over again from the start,” which is frustrating for the audience as well as the performers. And you lose that magical sense that the improv is all about discovering connections in an organic, lived-through experience.

In fact, the consequences of a single moment of disconnectedness are so bad that an actor should be quite stern with herself about forbidding them. In her preparation before the scene, she should say to herself something along these lines:

“I am absolutely forbidden to ‘exit out of the flow of the scene,’ even for a microsecond for any reason.” (Meaning: I am not allowed to go outside of the flow of the scene to worry or think about anything.)

The above negative approach is an essential tool for the actor to practice, but there is also a more positive approach. You can train yourself to actually feel the connectedness of the scene.

To accomplish this, simply use your own version of the following preparation:

“In the scene I am about to perform, while I am feeling the flow of the scene, I will be especially aware of the connectedness of the scene. I will feel how each texture, quality, and feeling-state becomes the next one, whether it changes slowly, in a middle speed, or suddenly. I will not space out even for a moment, because I do not want to miss a single moment of the connectedness, and thus miss some of the story of the scene.”

Experiment with adopting this preparation to the particular form you’re working in, whether comedy, dramatic, abstract, musical etc.