Really. There is no better tool for life’s most challenging moments than the principals behind improvisational theatre.
Isn’t this one of the most challenging moments in life? Uncertainty. Uncertainty about our own life. Uncertainty about our job. Uncertainty about our resources – can I pay my rent, buy my food. Uncertainty about our loved ones and how they will do.
Improv is how to live when there is no assurance about what is next.
Here are some thoughts on how to improvise our way through the pandemic:
Say “yes.” Internally and externally. Yes, has a lot of meaning when on stage and in life. In the context of today, it includes:
- Accept all information given. Really. Listen carefully. Social distancing. Accept that there are risks.
- Yes, about the risks and fears you have.
- Yes, you can’t go to work if told not to by your boss.
The there is the other half of the equation:
And respond to that given information, by accepting it – can’t say “no”, “but” or deny in any way. And adding information. Adding energy and power to the moment from an authentic place. I was taught that it was our responsibility to do so from the top of our intelligence. It isn’t about being silly, showing off or driving the scene to where you want it to go. It is about authenticity. Responding from the truth in that moment. There will always be a form of agreement within that AND.
- And, I will make a budget to get through the pandemic.
- Yes. let’s draw down now on the line of credit and hold the cash for awhile
- Yes, let’s review every one of those automatic renewal iPhone Apps and kill a bunch of them.
- And, now, finally, I will get into that exercise routine I promised to.
- And, yep now, finally, I will finish that certification I have been putting off
- And, I will call every one of my relatives and just chat and check on them.
- And, let’s study together tonight on Skype.
- And, I will learn Hebrew finally so I can chant Torah. I can do it online.
Find the joy in our experience. Yes, it may well be scary and uncertain in this moment in life. And there are people you love, beauty in the sunrise and sunsets, and most importantly the awe and majesty of taking every breath. It is precisely when we face great uncertainty and fear – imagine walking on stage by yourself facing an audience waiting for you to delight them. Now that is uncertainty and fear! Or could be. Improv has taught me to let that go, to be in he moment. And it can be also as we wake up every morning now. Listen for the sounds of spring. Be thankful for the first breath we take. The energy we still have.
The other principle is generosity of spirit. Indeed, generosity period. Improv requires us to make offers or gifts to those on stage with us. We as human beings in this moment should make offers and gifts to everyone in our lives at this moment. Generosity might be to pay if you can, someone who you hire, say a house-cleaner, for not coming to be safe. Or not buy more than you need right now. Or volunteering in a safe way. Or simply spending your time calling and talking to people who might be lonely.
Yes, improv isn’t for sissies. Excuse that politically incorrect term. It requires courage in the face of uncertainty. It demands we say YES to things we are certain we can never do or ‘be good at.” It is easier to say no. Especially today in the face of enormous uncertainty with damned good reasons to be concerned about our futures.
On stage I’ve been taught that there is only one mistake. Acting as if you make a mistake. Now translating this rule to real life is a little harder. I think it does though. We need to say YES to our mistakes in this moment as we go through it AND accepting them so we can make the correction and continue. It is a form of a righteous circle. Yes, I made the mistake. And this is how I will fix it with great joy and enthusiasm.
Let me send you off with some links to some of the great people in improv.
Carol Fox Prescott. http://carolfoxprescott.com/ Buy her book, Breathing, Awareness and Joy.
Jeffrey Sweet, Here is the Amazon Link Lots of great books. Fabulous video of Jeff and improv.
Michael Gellman, an early leader in Second City. his book Process, an Improvisors’ s Journey
Scotty Watson, a great improvisor and friend. You can learn from him right here!
Viola Spolin one of the original gurus of modern improv: http://spolin.com/
Yes, and ANDTheatre Company, aka, Artistic New Directions. My original improv home. It is where I go when I can, though I am in New York less than in previous years. It is through their work and generosity that I took my first steps. They are moving on-line for some of their training programs right now. Check them out. And for me a deep thank-you to all those ANDers, as I call them, who have helped me: Kristine Niven the Artistic Director at the time I joined. Janice Goldberg her joined her in that journey. Both who have been fabulous supporters of The Actual Dance and my work. The late Gary Austin who near the end of his life was able to reaffirm my life by seeing me perform The Actual Dance and telling me he loved me.