This week was the end of my level 2 improv class. It’s been a bit of a slog for many of us, which I’ve written a little about. Level 1 was a lot of “Whee! Let yourself go! Improv = recess for grownups!” In level 2, we get smacked upside the head with how much we have to learn. It’s stage 2 of the four stages of competence: we know what we don’t know.
We also had our showcase this week, in which the various classes perform in front of a live audience. We had about ten people enrolled in our section, but it turned out only four of us could play that night. And you know what? It was awesome. With ten people on the line, you can hold back because hey, someone else will probably jump into the next scene. You can also pre-plan your initiations a little. With four people, you’re in the mix pretty much constantly and there’s no time to pre-think. I missed my buddies, but I loved it.
I study improv for the larger life lessons way more than the performance-based aspects of it. By that I mean, my ultimate goal isn’t to join a troupe, but to learn how to be more creative and flexible, less wedded to the way I think things should be. (Even though I would be a great queen of the world, you know I would.)
But I also know you can’t just think about improv. You can’t get to the life lessons without getting in there and doing it—and it’s so much better in front of an audience, especially an audience that’s rooting for you to do well. After all:
One of the profound moments from Wednesday night’s showcase was an opening exercise before we went on stage. After a few warmup games, our TA asked, “So tell me what you appreciated about your performance in the showcase.” The group paused for a moment–our TA’s first language is Spanish and I wondered briefly if we’d heard him wrong. (He was a great TA, by the way–and being able to improvise AND be funny in your non-native language? FIERCE.)
But no, he was asking us to talk about the showcase as if it had already happened. So we did.
I appreciated that we got to the who-what-where of the scene really quickly out there.
I appreciated that there wasn’t any dead space during the show.
I loved the way we all had each other’s backs.
This was a revelation. By making these statements, we set our intentions for the experience that was to come. And we spoke our reality into existence.
The churchy word for this is eschatology–the branch of theology that thinks about the fulfillment of promises made in scripture. Most Christians I hang out with don’t like to talk about eschatology because it can get into some nuttiness over the end times and the antichrist and other various and sundry. I try to hold the topic lightly by asking questions like, “Where are we headed? If God is love, what are God’s ultimate hopes for this creation? How are those hopes already in evidence? How are they not yet realized?”
How many of you have been part of an experience or project that kicked off with, “What do we all hope to get out of this? What are our goals?” Those questions are fine, as far as they go. But by asking us to speak about the showcase as if it were completed, our TA asked us to place ourselves in the future already–to sense what that accomplishment would feel like in our bodies, to picture ourselves at our best, and to experience the fulfillment of all our hard work.
And a heads-up to the good people of Westminster Presbyterian Church, Greensboro–this is one of the first questions I’ll be asking when we gather on retreat tomorrow!
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