Thursday, May 26, 2011

Risk, Failure & Slow Motion Samurai Warriors

Last night I finished Level One Improv at the Hideout Theatre.  Six weeks, 3 hours per week, 16 people, 1 instructor, 1 assistant instructor, and an insane amount of fun.  

The class is advertised as "Have fun, meet new people and learn to improvise in the Hideout’s low-pressure classes.  This six-week workshop is designed for anyone who wants to loosen up, be more spontaneous and learn to take risks on stage and in life." Sounds like something all of us need, right?

The recommendation to take improv came in the most random way. I attended a RISE session about being a consultant, and the presenter said that improv classes were one of the best career moves she ever made. She explained that in her role as a consultant, she had to be okay standing in front of a group of people, not necessarily knowing what to expect, and be confident in her ability to succeed. As soon as she said this, I knew I had to sign up.

Within minutes of the first class, our group was standing in a circle and taking turns jumping out while yelling our names and making a funny gesture.  (I was "Energetic Erin" and jumped out like Mary Catherine Gallagher.) For the next three hours, we played lots of games, acted out skits, and most importantly - learned how to fail.  This was one of the most important lessons I learned through the class - how to fail graciously.  It is a given in improv that you will get stuck in some way, so it's necessary to learn how to be okay with it. I liken it to learning how to fall before you learn how to ski.  We partnered up and took turns saying how we each had failed that day, while our partners applauded loudly and cheered on the failure. It went like this:

E: "I didn't go to the gym like I had planned. I FAILED!" (Failure Bow)
Partner: "Wahoo!! Way to go!! YEAH!!" (Massive applause)

Partner: "I meant to send my mom a birthday card, but I forgot. I FAILED!" (Failure Bow)
E: "AWESOME!! Way to fail!! Whooo!!!" (Massive applause)

Talk about putting some perspective on our little life mistakes! When you mess up, take your failure bow and wait for the applause!

Throughout the rest of the class series, we played hilarious games, worked through countless improv exercises, and learned to take risks with ourselves and each other.  Some of my favorites included:

  • Perform a slow-motion samurai warrior fight, and die gloriously if you are killed
  • Come up with 5 things on the spot to answer questions like "What would you say on a date with Santa?"
  • Play human rock/paper/scissors with goblins/giants/wizards.
  • Act out skits, starting each new sentence with the next letter in the alphabet.
  • Tell stories in changing styles of theme
  • A synchronized dance routine mirroring your three partners
I can't say enough about how wonderful this class was.  I can't say that I feel 100% confident standing in front of people and knowing I will succeed. However, I have learned that it's okay if I mess up, or look silly, or even blank out.  At least I try.  Taking the risk is half the battle, and in the end - it can actually be a whole lot of fun. 

When I thought I was moving to Fort Worth, I figured that I would take this class, milk it for what I could, and move on with my life.  Here's yet another reason I'm happy to stay in Austin: I'm already committed to Level Two Improv, and I am so excited to share my Wednesday evenings with my amazing classmates and equally amazing instructor, all of whom I now call friends and supporters.

While improv might not be your thing, I encourage you to take a risk and try something new. You never know what you'll learn... and how much fun you can have in the process! 


Taline said...

Yikes. Still terrifies me! Minutes later, I'm still stuck on how I'd jump out and introduce myself!

shubbe said...

That sounds absolutely terrifying. Which is probably a sign that I should do it. Uh. Eventually.

Proud of you for stepping up and doing something scary!