“Improv changed my life!”
You might be nodding your head in agreement with this statement if you’ve been taking classes or performing for a while. Perhaps one of your friends does improv and is constantly encouraging you to try because it changed their life. What do they mean by this? It depends; like life, it’s an individual process.
When one dives into the improv pool a multitude of common themes bubble up to the surface. Here are a few:
You learn to become more comfortable with the fear of failure.
Hello self-doubt my old friend…. I’ve come to talk with you again.
So wait, part of improv is stepping out on stage with no idea what you’re going to say or do, with no plan, just you putting yourself out there? That sounds like a high risk for failure. It can be. It can be the most fun you’ve ever had as well.
Learning to acknowledge the fear, push it aside and take that first step with full awareness that “this not might work” can reap more rewards than standing in the wings.
You learn to become more comfortable with trust.
Ack, another tough thing to do.
Trusting others is hard. Retreating into the doldrums of daily life and watching hours of Keeping Up with the Kardashians is much easier do than to interact with others.
A huge aspect of improv is learning to trust your scene partner and troupe. Trust that they will be supportive, helpful and attentive when you do blankly step out on stage.
You learn to let go of control.
Just go with it.
The above phrase is both a 2011 subpar rom-com and also an excellent philosophy for improv and life.
You step out on stage ready to proclaim the most amazing observation that would fix the entire scene, put the narrative back on track and move the audience to tears. But Stan beats you to it, stating it’s time for a Costco run because the hand towels are faded.
You could completely block Stan’s offer and carry on with your grand plan or you can let go of your intention, shift gears and offer to drive Stan to Costco creating an enjoyable scene for you, Stan and the audience.
The lessons you learn on stage carry over to your life.
One day you might decide to embrace the possibility of failure by asking your crush to dinner, trust you’ll be OK whether they say yes or no and just go with the flow if the restaurant has an hour wait. (Food truck!)