I started improv in 2006, but I will remember 2014 as the year I started taking improv classes. It’s not accurate — my first teaching experience was with Tara DiFrancisco in October 2013, which I can honestly was a ray of sunshine forcefully elbowing its way through some stressful clouds — but it’s the first year where I took a lot of classes: two more short iO intensives and four levels of Monkey Toast, plus a TJ and Dave workshop.
I’ve read somewhere that the thing that one can do to most consistently increase a person’s happiness is listen to them. Improv is about listening to people, and then validating their choices; improvising means spending a lot of time with people that listen to you, and so doing a lot of improv makes me happy. There’s complexity there, of course – are we validating responses or being changed by responses? What is ‘listening’? – but the base truth holds.
So, having lived in London for almost 18 months now, what has happened? I have learned from at least eight different improv teachers, done improv with Wolf Pack (my two-prov with Jed Rose) and joined two more troupes: M.I.T, the Musical Improv Troupe, who perform an improvised musical in the style of Sliding Doors (“What could have been?”) and Game Face, a Harold troupe. I’ve been to many jams, seen many styles. I’ve got two great coaches (and a great substitute coach!) and two great MDs, all teaching me more. It’s been right.
The last few rehearsals, Game Face’s Harolds have felt cohesive to me. We’d been talking about style, and the voice of the group, and there was a lot going on in all of our minds and a lot of conversation and the feeling of *unknown*… and in the background, the improv was growing and breathing and coming together, not without us noticing, not without us trying, but fast.
If coming back to improv after the end of my PhD was like breaking the surface of a reedy lake and taking a deep breath, this was like getting home and having a hot shower and a big bowl of hot soup to wash out the cold. Last Thursday in rehearsal I walked onto an empty stage with nothing in my head, so I turned away from the audience wiggled my butt. Everyone else came on stage and wiggled their butts. We did core strength exercises, and flopped around, and then ran offstage again to prepare for the next beat. I love the fact that I wasn’t leading, that I didn’t have to lead, that all I had to do was wiggle my butt and suddenly everyone was there, wiggling their butts as I wiggled mine. I love the fact that I can write “wiggle” and “butt” so often in a paragraph, because those are very enjoyable words. Wigglebutt. Wigglebutt. It’s like scuttlebutt but wiggly. Wigglebutt. Wigglebutt. Wigglewigglewigglebutt.
Thank you, teachers, and thank you, Game Face, and thank you, M.I.T, and thank you, Wolf Pack. I can’t wait to see what I learn next.