Tag Archives: yes and

First Ever Improv Class Today!

I read a book maybe five years ago called Truth in Comedy. It is a highly-regarded guide to improv comedy. I remember being blown away by the idea of “Yes, and” which is a huge concept in improv — accepting what your troupe member offers you and building on it.

I saw this concept as highly relevant to life, as in, saying yes to what life hands me, and then responding to it. When I say no to what is, I become a little more rigid and a little less creative in how I respond to something unexpected, or possibly unexpected and undesirable.

After I read this book, I immediately contacted a friend who is in a local drama troupe. I wanted to offer a mixed class of improv and life application based on the concept of each class. I think my friend was super duper busy and/or the idea wasn’t particularly appealing to her because nothing ever came of it, even though I approached her more than once. 

I kept my eyes open for some opportunity to try improv. About a year ago, I read about a monthly free jam and kept tryimg to figure out how to get to it. Between other babysitting needs and Greg traveling and being nervous about going downtown by myself at night, it just didn’t happen.

Finally this week some things fell into place and I dropped in for the first of a four-class series. Three hour class! 

The first hour was a LOT of fun. The group of seven of us were almost all complete beginners, new to the craft. That was my first surprise; that there were others like me who had never tried it and who were willing to risk looking silly too.

The second hour the games got more complicated and I felt a brain fatigue that I recognized from times I have tried to do mentally fatiguing desk work. I wondered afterward if maybe there is a more heart-centered approach that I might take, rather than being so much in my head. 

After a break, we did the third hour of practice. We each went through the process of acting out cooking a meal, setting the table, eating, amd cleaning up. I found this to also be mentally challenging as there are many factors to consider when one is pretending. If I open the pretend oven to put the pretend lasagna in, did I remember to close the pretend oven door or did I pretend cook my pretend lasagna with the oven door opem the whole time? Did I pull out a pretend oven mitt to get the lasagna out of the pretend oven or did it burn my hands?!

I suspect that when children pretend, they don’t get all hung up on those kinds of details. I’d like to try the exercise again with the playful attitude of a child. I wonder how the experience might differ.

By the end of class, I was surprisingly tired. I decided I will go to class next Sunday, if possible, before I make any decision about whether or not to complete the class.

I believe my Alexander Technique lessons are very relevant to what I am doing in the class and may help me address both the pbysical and mental fatigue. 

All in all, I very much enjoyed the opportunity to finally try out this idea called improv. 

When an Addict Shows Up at Your Door

My heart sank even as my face lit up when my son burst through my front door this evening. I surely wasn’t expecting him. He was in jail this morning and was supposed to stay there for the foreseeable future. What is early release anyway? How do they decide who to give that to? Why doesn’t the judge get to keep someone from being released early?

I was in the process of putting Kepler to bed, and we happened to be in the middle of a stare-down about whether or not he was going to brush with toothpaste tonight. I was determined he was. He was determined he wasn’t. The usual type of thing, but I knew I would win this one. What I didn’t expect was having to abandon the duel at fifty paces to deal with my addict son arriving.

I saw an unfamiliar car in the driveway, driven by an unfamiliar person. By virtue of the fact that my son gave this guy his name and number, that made me very suspicious about who this person might be, and why he was driving my son out to the suburbs from the downtown jail.

The thing is, as I told my mother the other day, i think my brain is made up of 75% gorilla glue, so when a thought gets in there, it gets stuck pretty quickly. After talking to my son this morning, I was basically depending on the conversation we had had, thinking that I could count on the facts as I knew them. He was in jail. He was going to call me at 6pm. He was going to be transferred to another facility when a bed became available so that he could be assessed for suitability for in-patient rehab. (I can tell them, if they want to know, that he is definitely a good candidate for in-patient). And then, and then, and then, I spend time this afternoon thinking about what book would be good to send him from Amazon, and how we might continue to work on some of the thinking processes we had been talking about.

And then he shows up.

I confess my first response was not “Perfect, what’s next?” or even, “Yes, and,” which are my two favorite responses to unexpected events. Applying them now, I discover the following: Perfect, what’s next? He will see his probation officer in the morning. I will drive him. He may appear before the judge again. She may send him back to jail. If she does, he may be extremely distressed. I will respond to whatever happens with as much grace and wisdom as I can access. Yes, he is out of jail, and that means he has access to drugs and there is nothing I can do to prevent that. I can drive him downtown tomorrow, support him through the process, and feel what I feel throughout.

I don’t have to control this. I can allow the process to unfold.

As the last two paragraphs of the Desiderata poem say,

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.

And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Yes, and ……..

valerie saying yes

When “Whose Line is it Anyway?” was on the air, Greg and I were deep in our “raising-children-without-television” years, so I have only seen a couple sketches on YouTube. There are some great ones with Robin Williams. And when I was growing up, “improvisation” was about the piano! It was cool to be able to improvise on the piano. I don’t even remember hearing about the comedy form of “improv,” even if it was being practiced around me, or even by me!

As I hurtle from book to book in my life, I gnaw my way through some, power my way through others, and positively jump into a few with both feet and all my toes. One of the books in that latter category which I happened on a few years ago is called “Truth in Comedy” by Charna Halpern, Del Close, and Kim “Howard” Johnson. (Figures it would be a collaborative effort since it is the “manual of improvisation” and improv is most definitely a collaborative effort.)

Chapter 4 is called “Yes, &.” Rather than arguing, this rule means the actors agree, AND add something, which gives the other actor something to continue the sketch with.

That works in life, too! When I say “no” to what is happening, I pretty much close off my creative paths. When I say “yes, and” I’m allowing my creative juices to flow in responding to what is happening.

While writing this post, I got sucked into the vortex of YouTube looking for the perfect sketch I could link to. I probably spent an hour, at the end of which I had nothin’. I can say “NO, I DO NOT ACCEPT THIS AND I SHALL FIND A VIDEO, DANG IT.” and then what’s left to me but to continue to go through them one at a time, watching the commercials before every video, getting more and more irritated, looking for the video that I know must be there.

Or, I can say. “Yes, I am not finding a perfect video, and perhaps that means putting a video into this post is not the path for me. Maybe I could finish the post and look later. Maybe I could let my readers search YouTube on their own and find funny videos that they enjoy. Maybe there’s even something different that this post is to be about, something different for me to learn as I write.”

The point, and I do have one, is that saying yes to what is provides a type of agreement that enables me to greet what comes with a semblance of acceptance, and think about how to move forward.

Well, I’ve dithered around with this one for long enough. Or maybe, yes, I’ve dithered with this post for quite some time, and I’d really like to feel good about posting it, so I’m going to stick with it for just a few more minutes . . .

And now I am ready to post. What phrases do you find helpful in dealing with the inevitable changes that come?