Improv class 2.1 – Present yourself

After the completion of my second 6 week “introduction to improv” class, participants expressed their interest in a level 2 class. This really excited me, and last Monday we all boarded a train on a new journey. The library where I usually taught the class flooded, so we had the class in Pane E Vino, a very cosy Italian restaurant across the street from where I live. The warm fireplace set the stage for everyone’s creativity to ignite.

The theme for the first class was presence and awareness. I started the class with a relaxing exercise to help everyone get rid of all the thoughts of the day that held them captive from the present moment. An easy way to help you become present is to listen attentively to all the sounds that you can hear around you. Another way is to focus on your body by becoming aware of your breathing and the life inside of your body. For the most of the class we played a game I call Pattern circle, a very simple game with a lot of learning. I think we could have played that one game for a whole day. We ended the class with a game called Monster talk. In this game 3 players play one character and have to talk in unison. It’s exactly like the lyrics in that song by The Supremes that Phil Collins made famous, You can’t hurry love… it’s a game of give and take. You have to talk slowly and give and take the control. And of course you have to be present, aware and really listen to each other. Hmmm… sounds a lot like love doesn’t it? So yes doing improv can even help you in your relationships.

Last night was the second workshop of my level 2 improv class. Again we started with a relaxing exercise to get everyone present and aware. Being present, aware and in that state of stillness free from thought is crucial for improvisation, since creative ideas don’t come from thought. Recently I listened to a talk by Eckhard Tolle called “The Journey within”. In his talk he says that creativity doesn’t come from thought but from a place of stillness. I tested this theory by asking my wife, who is the most creative person I know ,what happens just before she gets a creative idea. After a brief moment of silence she said in her metaphoric way of speaking, “There is stillness. It’s like the wind dies down and there is this moment of utter quiet and then the creative ideas come like a cloud burst. First just one large drop falls into the dry sand then it is followed by this shower of creativity.” “What is the wind?” I asked. “Its thoughts” she replies. I concluded that Eckhard is right. A creative idea isn’t a thought that you manufacture in your mind by trying really hard. In last night’s class Liezel also commented that you need to trust your own creativity. That is also very true. All people are creative; we just lose it over time. The good news is we can reclaim it. The first step is to be still, and trust. Improv helps one to do this.

We also played Freeze tag last night. In this game 2 people start a scene. At any moment anyone else can say freeze and tap out one of the players. He/she then takes that player’s position and starts a new scene in a completely new context justifying the position. For a second round I said freeze and told them who should go in and replace another player. This way they didn’t have time to think about what they wanted to do. They just had to trust themselves and see what arises. Everyone commented that it was easier to come up with something good if they didn’t have time to think about it. I really enjoyed Olaf and Minki’s scene that went from a hair dresser to a convict sitting in an electric chair.

The next step is to trust the other player that they will take your creativity and do something with it – accept it and build on it (“yes and” it). I believe that the reason why we are afraid to trust our own creativity is because we are so use to other people rejecting our creativity and not accepting it. We all know how much rejection hurts. For most people it is not worth taking that risk anymore, so they label themselves as uncreative to protect themselves from rejection.

We ended the class with a game of “Whose line is it anyway?” In this game 2 players each get 2 random sentences written on a piece of paper. At anytime during the scene they have to read one of the sentences and incorporate it into the scene. Everyone played this game extraordinary well, accepting the offers and incorporating it. Each scene was worthy to be performed in front of a paying audience. Thanks for everyone’s participation, I enjoyed it tremendously.

Now it’s your turn. Become still. Focus on the sounds around you. Become aware of your breathing. Write down in a comment below what arises.

Now it’s your turn. Become still. Focus on the sounds around you. Become aware of your breathing. Write down in a comment below what arises.

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4 Replies to “Improv class 2.1 – Present yourself”

  1. It feels as if I’m sitting high above the ground. Could it be that I am still in the tree throwing peach stones at a ferocious lion, or am I on the ferris wheel in an amusement park in China eating sickening seahorses on a stick?

    Can’t wait to see where the next adventure will take me…

  2. I can ditto Burgert to say that I enjoyed the class tremendously!!!
    I just love to be able to adapt into all the different characters! The transitions from a hairdresser doing a Rock star’s hair to Olaf sitting in the convict chair just blow my mind! I admire all the participants for giving and accepting offers. Thanks peeps, you are all so much fun!

  3. I feel 13 years old today, pretending to be an adult behind a large desk, vigorously pounding away at the keyboard keys. Fiddling with papers,scribbling gibberish in my diary, looking at figures and having them swim in front of my eyes…what fun when I don’t take things so seriously.

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