I just completed a two-month introductory workshop on Improvisational theater. Doing Improv and/or stand-up comedy have always terrified me because the feedback is so immediate. I am a monologist who likes to tell the story my way, where I have control of the subject material and pace. Improv is the antithesis of this format where the story and characters are co-created with someone else in every moment. It requires giving up control and sharing responsibility for whatever the outcome. This uncertainty (plus the fear of bombing publically and the resulting assault on my ego) has kept me from doing it.
This is a perfect time for me to be letting go of preconceptions that no longer serve me, and to live joyfully in every moment. The workshop met 3 hours every week and lasted 8 weeks. Participants ranged in age from 16 to 78 and included students, waiters, teachers, an ex-cop, assorted entrepreneurs, and one aging psychiatrist.
The class has been an amazing healing experience. I learned how to give up control of the conversation and stop talking so much. I learned to add more oomph (drama and emotion) to my characters; and how to really listen to the words being said and trusting my unconscious mind to roam freely without judgement or restraint. The only other time I can get it out of my head like this is when I clown. I put on my red nose and Flamingo Ballerina costume and it opens a similar channel to such an uninhibited flow.
Last week we had our graduation performance at the Torch Theater, a tiny Improv venue that can squeeze in perhaps 25 people. We were introduced as “Private Spaghetti” and as we ran out my adrenaline surged, and I got a bit short of breath. I don’t know if we were that funny, but we were greeted by our families and friends with unbridled enthusiasm and even moments of hysteria.
I loved the experience; didn’t have to be funny and felt somebody always had my back. I’m not going to become an Improv performer, rather I am coming to it as a life practice. Improv reminds me how to be alive in every moment, and to let go of the illusion that I ever had control of anything.