HOW IMPROV CAN HELP YOUR CAREER
A few weeks ago, I did a reading. Not many people showed up. Some people can't stand doing readings when hardly anyone is in the audience. It doesn't matter that much to me. One time, years ago, I did a reading, and there were two people in the audience. Generally, I think of every reading as a dress rehearsal for something else.
Earlier this year, I took an improv class at Second City. If you're going to do improv, this is the place to do it. I wasn't even sure what improv was. I figured I'd stand in a room with other people, and eventually I would stand in front of the group and do something wacky, and everyone would laugh.
We started out in a small theater with a tiny stage, but after that, we split into groups, and we sat in a classroom. It was like being in school again. Maybe there were a dozen people in the class. The teacher was middle-aged, very skinny, and unshaven. He looked like he hadn't eaten in a long time. He wore long sleeves every day. I tried not to draw conclusions.
It was an intensive workshop, so we went all day for three days in a row. One guy was from somewhere like Tennessee, and he hypnotized kids in classrooms as part of some sort of education. I think it had to do with teaching children what being susceptible is. There were other random people there. A young woman who was spunky, pretty. One of those burly guys who's funnier than you'll ever be, no matter what.
We learned how to do space work, which is basically interacting with an object that isn't there, which is harder than you'd think. And we got into pairs and acted out stories without saying no. And we stood in a circle and played games that had to do with words and not thinking.
By the last day, I found myself lying on the floor on my back. There was another guy who was sort of above me in a chair, and he was pretending we were on a rocket ship heading into outer space. I went with it. I didn't have a problem going where he wanted to go. I held on and played along, and for all I know we got there.
So, the reading I did a few weeks ago was the first time I had a chance to use my improvisational skills since I did the improv class. Basically, I didn't move as I read the story, except for once. It was when the wife who is telling the story describes a time that the husband in the story drew an imaginary circle around them and told her that they live together in this safety bubble. At that point in the story, I spun my hands through the air, showing the small crowd what the bubble was like.
Later, that was the part that people mentioned. They liked that. I don't know if they liked it because I flailed my arms in the air, or because they knew what I meant when I showed them that space where it's two people in a bubble together and everyone else is in another universe.