Life as Improv #1-2

I’ve started a 5 week improv class with Edge Improv @ Metro Arts.

I had done a freebie class in New York, and this is a challenge to myself to test my confidence, meet people and build on my teamwork and public presentation skills. Our class of 9 is a mix of professional and performance backgrounds.  In the classes, we run though exercises as a group and run though scenes as pairs or smaller groups.

It’s a random weekend activity.

It’s been fun and I have also appreciated it as a reflection and philosophy to life and design actually.

Life lessons from Improv:
Class #1

  • Acceptance. One rule to the class is to have no judgement of yourself or others.  It means what you do is always right and the best of your abilities.  I think I judge myself and actions a lot and acceptance, and not comparing myself is a big thing I’ve been working on.
  • Again! Again! In an exercise where we constructed sentences in pairs, if we stuffed up we could jump up and down with our partner and say “again, again”.  It means any setback is not a mistake but funny and celebrated as an opportunity to start again.  I try to keep this in mind, feeling I had many setbacks last year.
  • High/Low. Stories have high status and low status characters, which can be expressed in changes with body language.  For example high status characters stand with heads high or take more physical space (hands on hips)  and low status can appear apologetic.  In this exercise I realised how that plays out in my real life, namely how I can feel low status with certain people in my life, but also how I can change that to regain equal or higher status.
  • Flirting. The class also helped me reflect on what I had most enjoyed in some recent flirting.  Our banter had been a kind of improv, with the planting a seed idea and having someone bounce and build off it.  I realised it takes a certain energy, chemistry and openness in that.  It also helped me understand my role in that, and where that energy was/is missing with other people in my life.
  • “Yes” People and Friends.  Improv is built on supporting another person – by taking an idea/reality and then saying “yes, and..” to add on it.  An exercise showed that when people say “yes, and…” the energy and story goes to unexpected spaces.  When people act as “no” it means the story becomes static and goes nowhere.  It’s the same in design and brainstorming, with a certain amount of “yes, and..” needed to explore ideas.    It helped me get very clear with the people in my life who were “yes” and “no” people.  “Yes!” people are the ones you want to be friends with.   It reminds of advice I once overheard in a Landmark class, someone said “you might what to try to say “yes” sometimes, because people who say no too much, just stop being asked”. I feel like I often will still ask after getting nos, but I also got clear on that pattern of not listening too and the personal meanings I add to getting “nos”.

Class #2

We did a fun singing game to teach trust and having each others back. As people joined the circle, we covered karaoke faves like the Beatles, Elvis and Bon Jovi.
We did scenes with gibberish this week.  This I found challenging to express though no words, just sounds and body language.   I did a fun gibberish scene with Zane, it started as a wedding proposal, a rejection at dinner and ended with a fight scene, throwing of the ring and dishes.

Lessons –

  • Slow Down. I learnt about physicality and slowing down movements.  It was also a thing I learnt about public speaking is to slow down, even when it feels painfully slow.  It helps articulate and communicate the idea
  • Failure is Inevitable.   The group expressed our personal fears about stuffing scenes up or doing things wrong.  He said, that as our first time classes and exercises, failure is inevitable.  Failure also becomes part of improv stories.   I think of things in life that I have stopped myself in out of fear of stuffing up/doing it wrong/not being good enough.  It reminds me of some advice, someone once gave me –  “take it for granted you’ll be crap at the first time, focus on the other not the act itself. You’ll build it with experience”.  Seems simply, but still challenging.  I’m still working on this one and as the book says “feel the fear and do it anyway…”
  • Commitment. Committing to an idea/scene/reality is what is needed to maintain or move a story and convince the audience.  I reminded me of learning in Landmark that commitment, integrity, and taking action is how we fulfill in goals.
  • Go Big. Engaging stories need big emotions to move things forward.  I was coached in committing to bigger actions and pushes, that it was OK not to be timid.  For example to act on something big like having the couple story end in passionate love or mad fighting.   It made me reflect that ‘going big’ is also how we drive innovation in design or ambitions in life.  …makes it more interesting at the very least.
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