The show for my Level 1 Improv class was last weekend! It was an absolute blast. I was really pleased with my performance, Josh had a good time, there was a cast party and we had a babysitter. It was a magical evening indeed.
Now that the class is over, behold: some Life Lessons I Learned from Level 1.
100% Support is Incredible
I have honestly never been around a group of people that were so supportive of one another. We played ridiculous games together and generally made fools of ourselves in front of each other before we even got into doing actual improv scenes. Your classmates are generous with their laughter and praise. You learn several rules — “yes, and…”, supporting your scene partner, no apologies, — but the support really allows you to explore an idea, a comfort level, sense of humor, etc. You can take risks, and there’s little consequence. I told a very unfunny story about an undead dog and no one called me out for being the monster that I am — that’s support.
Good Golly, Just LET IT GO
I spend a good deal of time rehashing how the events of the day went wrong, how they could have gone better, and how to prepare better for the next time; it’s why it takes me so long to fall asleep at night.* But with improv, there’s not much use in rehashing a scene or exercise too much in your head. You can think about what went right or wrong from an educational standpoint, but there’s no value in beating yourself up about it. I did a couple scenes that I still look back on and think “I should have said ______”, but coming up with a funnier punchline after the fact isn’t really improv. So learn what you can from it, and then forget about it.
You Can’t Always Prepare
Improv, by it’s definition, is supposed to be pulled out of the air. Duh. So in the same spirit as above, you can’t go into it with a list of brainstormed ideas. I mean, you could, but that sort of defeats the point. The main reason I wanted to take the class in the first place was that I get really, really nervous if I’m put on the spot without any sort of prep and don’t feel 110% confident in whatever’s expected of me. My contributions to a scene might not have always been particularly funny (just kidding! I’m hilarious!**), but I was able to perform in a generally non-plussed manner. Mission accomplished.
Stretching that Friend Pool
I met some really great people, in a range of ages and professions. It can be tough to meet new people when you’re an adult, and when you do it’s usually through a friend; which is just fine, but sometimes it’s cool to broaden your human horizons. Making brand new connections also allows you to learn things about the world outside your bubble… and about yourself. Also, I meet a lot of people that already know (or know of) my husband. This is awesome. I usually benefit from this (because he is pretty rad). But it was nice to drop into an entirely new group that didn’t know either of us and do something that was entirely my own thing.
I’m a generally laid back human, but like many people I have bouts of anxiety when I’m entering unexplored territory. I got more and more nervous heading to class as the weeks passed; then, on the night of the show there was a chance I was going to be late and unable to go on — this all meant nerves, sweating, and in the case of performance night, almost throwing up in the car. However, I was able to get to the theater, help build up my teammates, shake off the nervousness, and confidently perform during the show. Surviving those kinds of experiences allows you to more easily overcome hard(er) things in the future.
If you’ve ever considered taking improv, I really can’t recommend it enough. I haven’t signed up for Level 2 yet, but I will; the lessons were too valuable (and addictive) to stop!
*I do not recommend this as a sleeping device. Counting sheep is less stressful.
**Improv also gives you confidence.