Baby steps to improv, Bob. Baby Steps.

I try to go to a local improv jam on Thursday nights. I can typically only go every other week due to having church small group two Thursdays a month, but I go when I can. It’s a good opportunity to practice being on stage and, perhaps more importantly, to practice failing miserably.

I haven’t been doing improv very long but I know enough to know that most of what happens at the jam is terrible. Really terrible. It’s a bunch of random people doing random things, selling each other out for a laugh and resorting to bathroom humor if a scene dying. Which is often. I have seen a few scenes that weren’t bad but they are few and far between. Anyway, getting up and being a part of that is hard, yet if I’m perfectly honest I know that if it wasn’t ok to be terrible I’d have no place there, I’m not yet good enough to play with the big kids. And as I said, it’s actually been very useful in learning to fail.

To fail and keep going takes practice. To say something stupid and then step up to talk again; to do something that doesn’t make any sense and then to do something else, knowing it probably won’t work either; to be terribly embarrassed and feel like the most awkward human being who has ever walked the earth and then step into another scene; to know before you get on the stage that you are going to beat on yourself on the way home and then get on the stage anyway- it’s great practice. Or the sign of a sick mind. I suppose you could argue that either way.

Last week I felt stupid and clumsy and unintelligent. I stammered and blanked-out and said really inane things. So, of course, I rewound all of what I did and scolded myself for it while I drove home and then I went to bed. The next day I was doing my morning pages and writing through all the stuff I’d done and how I felt about it (I’ve found that to be really helpful, once I’m away from the emotions of the moment. I look at what I did, good and bad, and I’ve started to find patterns.) when I had a revelation- I’d done stuff.

No, really. I’d done enough to have a long list of what I’d “done wrong”. The very first time I did the jam, back in the first week of November, I was so scared that I froze on stage and did not say a single word for the entire set.

Not one word.

30 minutes of standing on the backline staring at our five audience members. Yep. That wasn’t awkward at all. I remember the next time I went I forced myself to speak in one scene, but I didn’t say much. Just a line or two. This time, only two months later, I’m beating on myself for saying stupid things in every scene I did.

Hello? I said things! In scenes, plural. I stepped out in three scenes with no idea of what they would be about or what I would say. Yes, this is one of the main parts of improv but it’s a part I deeply struggle with. I’m a planner. I like plots. I like control. This is why I write, I can clean things up an polish them before anyone knows I’ve even written. So trusting the process and stepping out scares me to death.

I did it three times! Instead of beating myself up for the admittedly terrible improv I did, I need to focus on the fact that I did improv at all.

Baby steps, Bob. Baby steps.

Advertisements

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. cedar23327
    Jan 12, 2012 @ 10:38:07

    That is really awesome that you realized that you had changed in the the few months that you have been doing improv. It takes guts to even be up on stage with a script either in hand or having it memorized, but to have no idea what you are going to do in a scene that you don’t know anything about it truly amazing!

    Reply

    • YanaLeigh
      Jan 23, 2012 @ 08:14:38

      It’s super scary, but so worth it. 🙂 You ought to try it sometime if you see a class if for no other reason than how much it will help your writing.

      Reply

  2. improvmantra
    Jan 24, 2012 @ 17:55:22

    I call this feeling the improv wheel. It goes like this: I can do this… I am awesome at this… I am not sure I am really that good…. I suck at this… repeat. The more you do improv the longer your “revolutions” around the wheel become… Sometimes I go whole WEEKS before I beat myself up and convince myself that I suck at improv. The important thing is to keep getting back on that horse!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 994 other followers

%d bloggers like this: