Monday, March 9, 2015

Exper: A Course in Life, Weeks 2 & 3

I didn't end up writing anything in week 2. You don't care, and yet I must get defensive and protest that this is not to say that nothing went down! It merely delineates that some very important time was spent binging on House of Cards (season 3: meh), Grey's Anatomy (decent) and Downton Abbey (BEST EVER I DIE). I did also do a bunch of work and teach 10 classes (please hold your applause until the conclusion of the post). And I sallied forth in the noble pursuit of the study of improv!

YAY! Improv! Improv improv improv!

If we've interacted for more than five minutes at any point, you'll know that I love to be obsessed with things, and improv class is proving no exception. I don't find obsession to be creepy; I just see absolutely no point in half-assing anything and improv is currently pretty high on the list of efforts toward which I am delegating my full ass. So I am really trying, to the best of my ability, to do the thing. I am attending class and reading books and attending shows when possible. I am juggling my husband and my handful of jobs and dragging said husband and said jobs across town to the improv theater a few times per week. I am watching shows with medium-good improvisers and I am watching shows with very good improvisers. I am balancing my personal enjoyment of the comedy at hand with ferociously critical study of technique. I am listening and watching Very Carefully. I am Absorbing.

So far, I have noticed the following:

1. When improv is Very Good, it is *unbelievable*. I know I lean on the side of superlative, but I straight-up mean it this time. Pure, unadulterated disbelief, that this stuff is happening off the cuff. I like few things more than to have my mind blown, so needless to say this is thrilling to witness. 
2. When improv is Not Very Good, it is somewhat awkward and disappointing for the audience member and likely for the comedian/enne, and then everyone moves on with their lives and everything is and continues to be fine.

I am pleased with these findings because they give me something to be excited about and they are also a reminder that a the occasional lackluster yoga class is, similarly, nothing to cry over. Life moves on and nobody cares. Or at least certainly nobody cares as much as you do. This is a good thing.

I continue to find yoga and improv to be more or less the exact same discipline, which is to say they are organized permission to feel good and let your brain and body fulfill their potential. I had a conversation to that effect with a classmate, a comedian-turned-yogi who is friends with my cool/smart/funny friend Emily, the yogi-comedienne who introduced me to this whole thing to begin with. If you followed all that, high five. He agreed! And we were both really stoked to have found outlets and communities to help create happy bodies and happy brains. What could be better?

In week three of classes, I finally decided to be a rebel and leave my notebook and three pens at home. Instructor Rick said something really great, goddammit, so I ended up having to quickly type it down in the notes section of my phone. It absolutely killed me that I'm sure it looked like I was texting and not paying attention during this time. RICK I WAS TAKING NOTES AND I AM SORRY.

-- By the way, if you are interested in earning my undying admiration, all you have to do is become a halfway-decent instructor of any kind. Blow my mind with something simple and true (see above in re: obsession and also mind-blowing) and I will follow you around like an overexcited intern, making mental or physical note of your every word for as long as that isn't annoying, and sometimes well past that point. --

Anyhow, the noteworthy thing was this. We played a game where we had to do a brainstorm about a fake product. For each product attribute or sales idea mentioned, the whole team had to give a full-body YES right then and there. Yell it with your mouth and convey bodily excitement as well. So you build this crazy positive energy and that starts to feel really exciting, because we all know that attitude is the thing just as much as anything else. We control perception and perception creates reality. So the point of the game was to practice feeling fully immersed in every thing that happens over the course of a game, because there's no going back once the improv has started. "No matter what happens," he said, "it's your job to find a way to make it work. The behavior that happened or the thing that was said - why is that great? How is that perfect?" Classic Tim Gunn 101. Fair warning, I'm using this as dharma in my yoga classes all week. You always have a choice as to how you react and what story you choose to tell; YOU choose which reality you want to make true. THE WHOLE THING IS IMPROV, all of it. We can only move forward. Make it great, let it be perfect. That was my note, no pens needed.

A final item - I found out in the cutest way that I am one of the oldest people in my class. A cool/funny/smart fellow student who I thought to be roughly my age made a joke about studying for her midterms, and then laughed and said, "gosh, midterms, that makes me sound so young!" I asked if she was a grad student, and she said no, undergraduate. And then she said she was 22 in a voice that sounded like she felt strongly that 22 was not a very young age to be. And then other classmates that I had also thought were my age started chirping in about also being 22, or being 24 or 25 or 27. If I had been a cartoon person, you would have heard the deflation noise as my plastic body puddled to the floor. This is one of my first experiences being and truly feeling older than people in an organized setting and I cannot believe how my mind immediately jumped to thoughts of being some sort of educational cougar, like I should be ashamed of myself for being at improv class instead of having a job that involves real pants. I was so surprised to find that I care about age, and as of yet I don't know how to make it perfect, make it great.

So that's my next task, I suppose. Onward.