Improv is a life practice, just as much as it is practice for life. And no, I’m not trying to be vague or super Yoda-like—but think about it. For many, it is a life practice, just like waking up and meditating, being in the habit of writing, going to work, etc. It is a constant. And one that can be pretty damn hard to shake. (Don’t fool yourselves, “ex”-improvisers; you may be off of the stage, but you’re still playing the game every day.)
It is a practice for life, in that way, that beautiful way, where each rehearsal, each class, each game, or each second you spend in it, you’re learning something so much bigger than how to improvise for an audience. You’re learning how to improvise for your life.
But new news this is not, hm?
We already know all of this. We know that the skills we learn in improv can be carried throughout our lives to make us better parents, better friends, better leaders, better partners. Hell, we literally just talked about this. But it’s important to be reminded.
I got a big reminder last Sunday in an improv class. Currently, I’m taking 601 with Jedi Master, Ted Rutherford, finally, about five years after taking my first 101 class with Shana. (Background, you know.) Anyway, we have been working on long-form in preparation for a show, and unfortunately, for about the first one half of this particular class, my head was not even remotely in the room. Which, of course, meant that not only did I miss the directions for what we were doing, but I also missed the beginning of the story we were creating and the characters’ names.
By the time I pulled my head out of my… avid imagination, I realized, in horror, that there was a dead stage. And more to my horror, my feet seemed to be carrying me out into the middle of it.
I stood for a moment, did a little stage work, and then—voila!—someone had joined me. A partner to help me fill in the gaps. After an, honestly, pretty rough and awkward little scene (seriously, I had no idea what was going on), I found my footing. And the story went on.
And when it was all over, I realized that yes, yes, this is what it’s all about. You know, that Life thing. It’s about just rolling with it. Being present to its unfolding, and when you’re not—just muddling through the rough patches that result, and moving on. Because you can’t just shout, “Okay, this scene sucks, let’s start over!” (especially not in the middle of your 601 show). You have to roll with it.
Is it better to have been paying attention in the first place, to avoid those difficult moments in life, on stage? Yes—and no. Rough scenes, rough moments, rough phases in life—they just happen. They make you ache, and if you listen to them, they make you learn. Either way, though, the show goes on, and with a little practice and a lot of patience, you can learn to be there for almost all of it.
“Patience you must have, my young Padawan.”
Photo Credit: Wesley Fryer via Flickr