January 26, 2004

Thoughts Following Week Three of My Improv Class. (And no, I never wrote anything about Weeks One or Two just in case the whole thing turned out to be a horrible mistake and I abandoned the whole project like an unwanted Christmas-present-kitten left by the side of the road.)

I left class last night definitely feeling a little better than I did after the first two. There were a moments in front of the group when I felt like I had some control over the scene I was helping to create, rather than just floundering about desperately trying to think of something, anything to say or do. It wasn't a great work of theater for the ages or anything, but it was a logical scene with characters and a relationship and even one or two laughs, a scene where I wasn't praying for someone to end it, and it felt like something I could build on. Of course, there were several less successful moments, but the class ended on the high note and overall I'm beginning to feel a little less lost.

Now, as for why I'm doing this: I've been thinking about taking this class or something similar for a few years now. First off, I have practically zero experience in any sort of performing art. In fact, since my supporting role as Sohovik in the Jonas Salk Middle School Production of Damn Yankees, my lifetime performing resume consists of: 1) being called onto a Seattle stage during a performance of Fool Moon for some audience-participating clownery, and 2) dressing up as a cat down in Wildwood, NJ and performing some cat-themed observational humor for 60 seconds. Basically, two spur-of-the-moment events, although I guess we can also count officiating my friends' wedding.

Anyway, despite this lack of experience, or more likely because of it, I have always just assumed that my writing style would translate really well and I would be naturally good at whatever comedic performing art I attempted. One of my 2003 resolutions was to try stand-up comedy, and while the aforementioned Meow Mix thing probably would technically qualify, late in the year I decided that I'd rather not regret never having done it, amended that resolution to include a more group-oriented activity, and signed up for the class.

Of course, so far it's turned out to be a bit tougher than my idealizations. I'm pretty well trained in choosing words carefully and rearranging and editing extensively, and an on-the-fly form of performance such as long-form improv has much less, if not no, use for those skills (not that after three classes I can claim to be an expert on what sorts of skills it would have use for). Once an idea or movement is expressed, well, there at is, out there in the world, and there's no going back. A few times so far I've said or done something and immediately wanted to take it back, but that just isn't an option. You have to move forward and try to make it work; it's like driving too fast and getting off the wrong exit: you can try driving in reverse back onto the highway, but more likely than not it's gonna get ugly real quick.

In any event, I'm finding the whole experience to be fascinating, if a bit scary, with lots of unexpected insights and lessons about humor and what makes a piece work. I hadn't even planned to write about it on this site, but It's a great subject worth exploring, and I'll hopefully be able to convey a bit more about the class and the theory behind it as I go along.
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