Monday, November 3, 2014

Do Something!

The great Mick Napier wrote a wonderful book called "Improvise. Scene from the Inside Out" in which he writes, "For God's sake, do something. Anything. Something. At the top of an improv scene, do something. Please, do it for yourself. Do yourself a favor and just do something."

I think of this often. Not just at the top of an improv scene, but when I'm feeling generally stuck. Stuck to create, stuck to get out of bed, stuck to get motivated. I hear Mick's voice in my head saying, "Do something! Anything."

This planet is always moving. That's why we get so frustrated when we're stuck in line, or in traffic, or in our life. Forward movement is the natural flow of life.

Sure, there are times when we like to wallow in self-pity, or bask in the afterglow of a great occasion, and that's fine - but know that it has a time and a place. Too much looking back (and in the case of improv that usually means fretting over the funnier thing you could have said and done instead) leaves you feeling stuck, paralyzed and will bring on more self-loathing. It keeps you from moving forward.

Too much looking ahead can be just as debilitating. Have you ever noticed how the thought of doing something you dread or fear is much worse than actually doing it? It usually lasts longer, too. Try and remember that the next time you're faced with a stack of unfiled papers, complicated tax forms or never-ending laundry. Click "ignore" to the enemy thought that's telling you how hard, or awful, or boring it's going to be - and just do it.

Do something. Because if you don't, the chance might be gone forever. And it could have been something really great.

(Except perhaps laundry.)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

How to Seduce Your Improv Partner

Good! I thought the title might get you this far.

Of course, when I say "seduce" I don't mean "seduce seduce". But improv is a kind of seduction in that it usually starts off with two people alone on a stage, not knowing what the hell is about to happen. One person has an idea or impulse and acts on it, seductively offering a line or an action. The partner follows, offering his or her own touch or twist to the mix. Sometimes you don't even need to say anything. It can be communicated in the eyes or with the body. True stage partners will follow each other's lead. There is no boss. There should be no power play. There is no room for control freaks on an improv stage. It's a side by side, equal partnership. There is complete and total trust. There is give and take. No one walking 10 paces ahead, no one walking 10 paces behind. You should be aware of each other at all times. Listening, focusing, almost anticipating your partner's next move in a perfect flow. In those moments neither one of you has any idea where it will go or end up, but that's part of the thrill. The difference is that you have an audience watching, sharing in that thrill.

Follow. Keep going. Move forward. See where it takes you. But if you're terrified? If you feel out of control? Sure, you can leave the stage, you can change the subject, you can break all the improv rules like denying, blocking, negating…but good improvisers will know that doing any of those things will stop the flow and ultimately destroy what could have been a great scene.

Sound like a relationship? It should. Improv is a relationship. A bare, raw relationship between actors on a stage. Improv is about working as a team, giving and taking in balance towards a shared goal: entertaining the audience, and yourselves, for just a moment in time. And when it's right, there's only one other thing in the world that feels as good.