Having survived my second ever impro / improvisation / improv class, I am hooked. When I looked into it last month, I thought it would be fun. I adore the Sky Arts / Sky Atlantic series Inside the Actors Studio with James Lipton and many of the actors talked about improve in a way that made it sound like a great philosophy on life, if terrifying.
Am a total newbie, but essentially, it’s about greeting each offering (whatever someone else does) with a ‘yes, and…’ So, for example, if someone speaks of the villagers hating having fire breathed on them by the dragon with tiger teeth, you don’t say, ‘Don’t be ridiculous, they loved it’ or ‘Dragons don’t exist and they certainly don’t have tiger teeth’, you agree wholeheartedly and add your own bit to the scene.
Tina Fey’s memoir, Bossypants, made it sound even more compelling. So, even though I shook so much during my last time on stage (Theatre Studies A Level a hundred years ago) that I thought my prop (a parasol for a Gwendolyn / Cecily duologue from Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Ernest) might actually drill a hole through the stage, I figured I now know more about containing anxiety (it’s a big part of my work!) so could handle my own. I went along to a class in London. (Check out www.hooplaimpro.com if you’re interested and London’s accessible for you. Steve is fantabulous.)
Apart from figuring it would be fun, I imagined it would be great practice for listening (something I do a lot of as a journalist / counsellor / coach / yoga therapist for mental health etc…) in a very different way.
Ostensibly far removed from a challenging yoga class, improv engages my brain in a similar way: I have to be totally present and mindful to keep up and, hopefully, not humiliate myself (although, as we’re frequently reminded, that sense of vulnerability keeps us all on our toes and engaged with the process).
The first class had me laughing so much my face ached. The second made my throat hurt from laughing as well as my face. So much anxiety (fortunately, I have many more tools to manage my own now than I did as a school kid), so much laughter, so much fun and such lovely people!
When you think about expanding your own comfort zone in a fun but challenging way, what ideas do you have? I wanted to try improv for years before I actually had the headspace, time and energy (I was living beyond my comfort zone in everyday life for a while there) to check it out and actually experiment.
Listen to your own spirit – what do you want more of in your life? Maybe you want to enrol in an art class or sing somewhere other than in the shower. Practice listening to this inner voice and have a little play on Google to check out some options that are open to you locally. Go at your own pace and have fun experimenting with different ways to expand your comfort zones.