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You just did a show! You did it. You did the thing. You were there, with your team, in that moment making something that didn’t exist before. You really did it!
I'd like you to allow yourself to get off stage happy with just the simple fact that you did a thing.
Was it great? Maybe, maybe not. Some people might think so, some might not. You might not. You might, but someone else in your team might not. You know what—who cares!? It’s ethereal and it’s gone now. "If it’s not easy, you're learning and that’s amazing” (Ward, J. 2017). A so-called "bad" show, whether it’s just you or the whole damn theatre who thought it was bad, is no reason to be sad! There will be another one. And another... and another. You’ll get better, and better and better.
I've had shows ruined by getting off stage and hearing someone on my team spitting fire at themselves, or worse, me, for the show being bad. Life is too damn short for that! I want to be great, I really do, I work at it every day, I obsess over improv all the time. I really give a shit about this art form. I truly find beauty in the process of improvisation: two humans interlocking and finding the show together in a moment is up there with my favourite things, ever. However, if I perform some real potent garbage, which I feel like I did as recently as last Saturday, I need to learn from it and I laugh at it. I learn nothing from hating myself for it.
Scott Williams, a master Meisner teacher from the UK put it to me like this:
- Your inner critic is the loudest voice in every room.
- Your inner critic lies to you.
- You believe it.
- You can’t work while it’s talking to you.
(Williams, S 2016)
So you finally did it; you faced your fears and booked an improv class. Good on you, honestly! Most people mull it over, then let their comfort zone win, so they never know what its like to have fun with their fear, and find joy in what scares them.
You're going to have fun, I promise. Along the way you'll also learn some invaluable life lessons just by turning up and paying attention. However, if you really want to get the most out of your class, here are some suggestions:
1. Take notes
Improv class doesn't really have any designated writing time (you'll mostly be on your feet doing fun stuff), but there are quite a few nuggets of wisdom on offer. Bring a notebook and pen, and jot down any sayings, expected learning outcomes, performance dates and things that confuse you. It will help with memory, and it's great to come back to at the end of term to see how far you've come.
2. Do the exercise in front of you
Most of your class time will be spent running different activities. There will be a few exercises and activities that might feel counterintuitive or like they don't fit into your expectations of improv. That's completely normal. I like to tell my students that improv is like playing a sport; in training you might do sprints, bench presses or other activities that train a particular muscle group, but do not appear to have anything to do with the game. The reason for this is that once you've strengthened those muscles, you will be able to execute the movements in the game more easily, and without thinking. As improv is open-ended, we can't teach you how to know what's going to happen in a given scene, but we can work the skills (muscles) that will help you make great choices in the moment on stage.Continue Reading
I have always struggled with being incredibly uncool as a person. What do I mean by this? As the definition of uncool is "not fashionable or impressive", here are some examples of how I have been both exceptionally unfashionable and unimpressive:
1. When I was 11 years old I made handmade invitations for my wedding to Zac Efron and tried to slot them into the lockers of all year 5-8 kids. My best friend "forgot to print them for me", thank god.
2. In year 8 I forced my entire class to perform the finale dance to Camp Rock's "We Rock" while (a) I couldn't dance and (b) my very developed body flopped around in the front and centre while I wore a singlet as support for my unwanted bosoms.
3. Just the other day someone mentioned that Christmas was coming around soon, and I exclaimed "Yay, it's almost time to play Hanson's Christmas album! 'Merry Christmas Baby' is my favourite."
Apart from my clear affinity towards Disney Channel teen stars and my obsession with Taylor Hanson, I am uncool in a lot of ways. Trying to be cool is my personal definition of uncool. That being said, I have fallen victim to the waste of time that is trying to appear "cool". Especially in improv.Continue Reading
Reposted with permission from a recent Facebook post
You’re All You’ve Got - Apparently a Janis Joplin quote and something I've only just realised.
Every time I come across an artist that I like, I go through the same basic three-step emotional process:
1. This is great.
2. Why can’t I be great like this?
3. I’m not great.
I’m aware that it’s not the healthiest way to be, but I’m working on it. Back off. I’m also aware that what I’m about to talk about is not by any means a new revelation, or even a unique way to look at things. But it’s new to me. Back off. I’m also aware that people may completely disagree with me about this stuff. But I don’t disagree with me. Back off. Sorry. I love you.
Whether it’s a great song, a sketch, a drawing, a comic, TV or a movie, I always feel like there is some great secret that I’m not in on. Something that separates the real artists from the "try-hards" (because trying hard is lame). From all accounts, this doesn’t just go away - see Imposter Syndrome - but I find it very difficult to refute at my current level of output. I feel so frustrated because of this apparent disconnect between me and the artists I admire. What makes them real and me fake?Continue Reading
If you’ve taken an introductory improv class, odds are you’ve done some form of emotional expression exercise. If you’re like me, this generates two responses over time:
1. Abject fear (I never do this).
2. Surprising release (I never get to do this).
In doing this work, you’ve probably been limited by your teacher to a few “core” feelings. If you’re like me, maybe you responded in a further two ways:
1. Resistance: Why can’t I play “jealous” or “nervous?” That’s more fun.
2. Relief: Thank everything I don’t have to think hard about this.
Found the game yet? Learning often follows a pattern of resistance and release. Changing perspective makes inertia. I certainly felt (and feel) that whenever I do emotional work in scenes or with students.Continue Reading
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