When there is a list of exercises for us to do, some will inevitably attract us and others will scare us to death, and, according to Julia Cameron, you should do exercises of both categories, those you love and those you hate. For most people improvisational theater sounds intimidating, if not traumatising, and they would never put themselves out there, naked in front of the public to see and judge. For me improv was love at first sight, and something I will probably long for all my life, as it created a way of self expression. For both the scared and the loving ones, I really recommend improv theater as a good exercise Not only is it a way to have fun and overcome your fears, but also a great way to grow, let go and live.
This past weekend I was lucky to join the improv theater weekend organised by Karina, my improv teacher and dear friend. I know many people did not join because they did not have the guts to, but I also did not know it would be challenging and tiring for me. Would I do it again? For sure. Do i recommend it to anyone? Yes, to anyone.
What are some lessons improv tough me?
Play! When we grow up, we forget to play and become way to serious about life. Improv is a way to reconnect with your intuition and have fun without cigarettes or alcohol. When you follow your craziest ideas out of your inner self, and without covering it by drunkness or craziness, this really empowers, and it is indeed a lot of fun!
Allow yourself to fail. My fear of failure stopped me from starting so many things, and I don’t want it to stop me anymore. When you improvise, you will inevitably be misunderstood, you will look ridiculous or mistaken for something different than you meant to show. This will make you more comfortable about wandering off the path of success in real life. In the end, failing is all about learning and growing, and when we look stupid we allow ourselves to be who we really are, at this moment.
Always say “yes”. It is important to play along with your partner, you are a team and you are creating this performance together. When you go along with what your partner suggests, you are saying “yes” which unravels space for more action and development. And it is the same in life, saying yes will bring many beneficial situations to you. Sometimes saying “no” is also saying yes, as your “no” will direct the situation in the different direction. Just remember not to reject anything completely and not to refuse to play this game of life.
Some improv games that can be played by everyone
During my improv classes I often get startled at how the exercises can be related to life. When we learn to be ourselves improvising, we can bring this skill back into life, and play along more with others and whatever life brings to us. And that is why I encourage everyone to play some improv games, in your families and your communities.
Colourful balls. (to develop focus) The facilitator throws an imaginary ball of one colour (let’s say green) to a person, and this person passes it to the next one, and the ball is moving from hands to hands. Then more balls appear (like pink and yellow), and now you have to be extra careful and focused, both receiving and throwing the balls. In the end of the exercise the facilitator collects all the balls and figures out if some of them are missing.
Yes and (saying yes)- this is a storytelling exercise in which everyone in the circle says a sentence, and another person continues the story by saying “yes, and…”. The story always comes out a bit ridiculous and a lot of fun.
Three weird questions (develop creative thinking) – everyone in the circle invents a strange silly question for example “Why don’t unicorns fly to Hawaii after a rain on Sunday?” or “What happens if I eat uncooked hair?”, etc. And the person in the centre points to a friend who will ask a question and then answers with a very smart scientific look as if he/she were an expert on the subject. After three questions, the next participant steps in the center and those who have already asked come up with a new question and the game is repeated.
What are you doing? – You are standing in the circle doing an action, for example putting lipstick on, and anyone who wants comes up to you and asks “What are you doing?” You reply something completely different from what you are doing, for example “ I am skiing”. Then you leave, and your friend who asked the question is skiing, and when they are asked what they are doing , they come up with a different answer, like “ I am sleeping”, and so on.
Build a machine (teamwork) – the group is divided into two teams, and the audience team comes up with a name for a machine – for example, a “machine that makes chocolate teddy bears”. Then the performing team go out one by one and build a machine out of themselves, improvising of how this machine moves, and adding more detail to it. Once the machine is completed and running, the facilitator or audience can suggest different modes for it, like add laughing, or say – now its an explosive teddy bear making machine.
And these are just some warm up exercises, the real fun is on the stage. You won’t experience it until you try it, so I welcome you to explore improv theater for yourself!