Welcome to Improv Mondays, a weekly series exploring improvisation in quilt making. This weekend I experienced improv comedy at the Pan Theater in Oakland, CA. The main show consisted of two actors doing a series of short sketches. Limits or rules framed each sketch or game to create a safe container for taking risks.
After the main performance the audience participated in Free Improv. Teams of six improvisors were created on the spot from audience volunteers. They got twenty minutes to explore an idea, theme or word. Usually two or three of the team members would start, and the timed session would roll from there with others joining in at will. When a scene played out, stalled, or climaxed someone on the team would walk across the stage to clear the slate and another scene would start. This continued until the timer went off.
By the third round the willing volunteers encouraged the remaining shy people in the audience to play. So I got up on stage and joined the improv. Filled with anxiety, I literally jumped in as a rabbit, being practice whipped by slave owners on a plantation in the 1830's.
It was a thrill joining in. I committed to my part, but I also felt awkward. To stay safe, I automatically played into expected roles. I did great as the cute rabbit but once the slave owner started hacking off my feet, why didn't I rise up and become an atomic bunny from the 21st century, and enslave the slaver? Instead I curled up and died.
The way I chose to play my role was perfectly ok, but it made me think...
Being present to improvise, change, and play or move beyond my habitual expectations and anxiety requires a lot of courage.
The other thing blowing my mind is the fact that I COULD have become an atomic rabbit. Why not? Anything goes in improv as long as it flows. Imagine what an atomic rabbit quilt flowing out of a sweet fluffy rabbit quilt might look like!
Probably not what you expected?
Improv theater is like improv quilt making on speed and in multiple dimensions. I see plenty of parallels between the two. My experience in one informs the other and vice versa. I'll go back to the Pan Theater for more.
Anyone else with parallel improv experience - such as dance, cooking, conversation? What are your thoughts on courage and risk taking in improv?
... asks the atomic rabbit :)