Starting the Week With Awkwardness

iO Summer Intensive

Week 3

Instructor- Lyndsay Hailey



It’s going to get weird in here this week.

That was how Lyndsay greeted us this morning, with a big smile that seems entirely too knowing. This is scene work week, the hump week of the intensive.

We started with Soundscapes that led into openings as our warm-up. She told us this is a common warm-up with her so we should be ready to do them every morning this week. We also did a “song” version, which I like a lot better.

From there she told us to settle down and get comfortable on the floor because we were going to talk for a while. Notebooks not needed, this was sharing time. So I set down with my normal wariness, which was founded. Lyndsay explained that the deepest, richest, truest stuff we can bring to the stage is from our own lives. Our own personal, and deepest, fears, failures, goals, embarrassments, dreams, rejections, etc. That we should be sharing these things with each other outside of class so that we all have each others lives to pull from, so we can access the collective accumulation of “stuff” from our lives.

To foster that she had each of us tell the most embarrassing/humiliating story we could think of from our lives. To the entire group. And when it was over we each got a new nickname, decided by the group, to remember the story with. There was terror on most of the faces around the circle. Mine included. That is a level of intimacy that is uncommon in day to day life. But we did it. People told stories so horrible that I felt uncomfortable for them, or wanted to cry for them. Rejection, failure, mistakes, stupid choices- all of it. And the resulting nicknames included The Navigator, Gunslinger, Shit Storm, Leg Press, Not Funny, and a host of others. What’s interesting is that it did bring us closer together. Fast. And everyone has, as far as I know, been super respectful about what was said in the room. We tease each other, sure, and use the nicknames. But I can’t imagine I would ever spread one of those stories to anyone outside of the group. And even within the group I noticed something weird- the nicknames seem to lessen the embarrassment. Like, getting it out there and being accepted anyway takes away the burn of it. Strips the story of it’s power.

After that was over, and despite the wonderful therapeutic aspects it was still emotionally rough, we moved to Walking Around the Space. We started in neutral and evaluated each other, so we could hear how other people see us when we think we’re not giving off any emotions. I think this would be so useful in life! Several people look angry as their default and they had no idea- how often does that go on in “real life”? Imagine is you could honestly tell someone that they look angry all the time and them not be upset by that feedback? Then they could legitimately deal with that instead of being unaware. Anyway, we did scenes that way, to get a baseline for our work.

Then we scattered around the room and got silly. As silly as we could be. That was all the instructions we got. This was VERY hard for me. The we paired up and got silly. Then four together. Then eight. Then all sixteen. Lyndsay asked us where we felt the most and least comfortable, and then why? Said it was something we should think about and see if we could find an answer because it will help us understand ourselves a lot better. I know where I felt best- pair or four. Worst was alone or sixteen. Alone, I felt so dumb I couldn’t even relax, in sixteen I felt like an outsider trying to keep up. In a pair, or in four, I felt like I had permission but wasn’t being left behind either. Which I didn’t articulate to myself until I wrote that just now. Interesting… that’s something to think about.

Snatches from the day–

  • If improv feels hard it is because I am looking for all the answers inside myself. The answers are in my partner.
  • We have all we need on stage in each other- we are all artists, poets, and geniuses.
  • Find what happens between you, don’t create it.
  • Instead of trying to find a way to determine if person A or person B’s reality will win out, just accept things as-is at the top and move on. They are compatible.
  • Don’t react! Respond! Reaction stays in the top of the lungs and the head. Response comes from deep, full-lung breaths that allow the emotion to settle into and come from the gut.
  • No one talks about their environment while they are doing an activity. Stop it in scenes.
  • Is it easier for me to start with dialog and then add space work? Or the other way around? It’s important to know for our own sakes, to help ourselves out. (Mine is space work first, by the way)



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