I am currently taking a course on improvisational acting. This is my first improv class and this is usually how it goes:
1. We all jump on-stage and walk around looking at each other. Eye contact is a must. Then, the teacher will give us an instruction such as, “The next person you make eye contact with has just stolen money out of your wallet or purse. Without speaking, react to this with body language and ONE sound that sums up how you are feeling. Go.”
2. More warm-up exercises.
3. Scenes. Without scripts of course. Two of us saunter up to the stage and are usually given either a place or relationship – very rarely both. And then we begin. Yep, we just start. We are encouraged to do space work, not ‘mime’ , so I usually find myself stirring something in a bowl with a yummy imaginary cake in mind. We always make eye contact before we speak and then someone begins. Such as, “Betty, the apron that my mother made for you really shows off your figure.” I may respond, “Yes, very pink. I am cooking for you more often,” and then he may say, “So happy you took her hint.” And on and on we go completely unscripted.
Though I love acting, I found myself really hating improv.
Until I stopped trying to be perfect at it.
I am a tried and true planner. I like to-do lists, calendars, reminders, sticky notes; I like scripts. Maybe my astrological chart has something to do with it (Virgo here) or maybe I just need to remind myself to go with flow. Throwing myself in front of an entire classroom without KNOWING what my scene partner was going to say, let alone what I was going to bark back with, really annoyed me. I spent weeks hating it. Six.
Then one night a classmate said, “we all have to be okay with being bad to get good.” I started thinking about how much attachment I had to the end result. I wanted a script so badly because I wanted to plan for it to be perfect; I know things don’t always go as planned, but at least I had a plan, right? I don’t really know what shifted, but something did. Now I show up to class, less the anxiety, and just go with it.
The two reminders I say to myself now (that actually cancel each other out): 1. Be okay to fail – to look silly, miss the mark, etc. 2. Failure doesn’t exist. So learn and have fun.
I did not watch the speech in its entirety, but the only thing I would have to add to this clip (aside from the reporter’s unfortunately smug summary) is the reminder that we do not have to believe in the word failure at all. Keep moving forward.
- is there really such a thing as failure? (awakenedleadership.wordpress.com)
- What’s Your Core Vulnerability? (psychologytoday.com)
- First lady to students: ‘I have failed at things’ (kfwbam.com)
- First Lady: ‘I Could Take Up A Whole Afternoon Talking About’ Obama’s Failures (charlotte.cbslocal.com)