When you first start performing improv, it can be really hard to not get into your head when you perform and constantly think about everything that you are doing on the stage and really analyse the movements and reactions that you have. As you start to become more confident (and surrounded by improvisers that you trust) you will notice a huge difference in the way that you approach the stage and how you interact with the other performers.
One thing that you will start to notice with the more shows that you do, is that there will always be someone in the audience that will try and catch you out with their suggestions. It can be something cheeky, a word that is really complicated to understand or even something you have never heard before. There are two ways that you can deal with this situation – the first is to ask for something different entirely and the second is to OWN it!
( N.B: I think it is important to say here, that if it is a suggestion that is offensive, make you feel uncomfortable or wrong that you have every right to ignore the suggestion or even bring to light why you are not accepting that request. )
The one important thing that you need to remember about improv that the stage is your world. If you get a suggestion that you are not sure what it means, spin it on its head and make it something you are confident in playing. It may be a complicated word but on stage that word does not have to MEAN that world in an improv environment, it can be anything from a characters name, an inspiration or have a new meaning.
The wonders with improv is that the audience will accept anything if you can sell it and convince them of the decision that you make on stage. They are there to see a show and they want to give you sometimes hard suggestions to challenge you. It is really entertaining to watch an improv group try and work out what to do with a suggestions and it can also lead to some of the best scenes on stage.
I think we sometimes worry that we have to take everything with a literal meaning and with improv you do not have to, remember you are in control and it is all about fun.