Improv and The Art of Presence

I’ve studied improv for almost two years and I absolutely love it.  Improv allows you to be a kid again and invites your imagination to run wild.  It takes you to new places, characters and stories based on an audience suggestion.  From the audience perspective, improv appears to be as simple as the conversation between two people.  It is that simple for the skilled improvisor, but it is even more complex then meets the eye.

Through the process of life and growing up we what is socially appropriate and learn tools to cope with our environments.  In both cases, we often do not express or minimize one or several emotions.  For those specific reasons, I always ask everyone to honor and express their emotions because they are a natural part of the human experience and are a guide for you.  To be an improvisor you have to throw all the years of socialization and coping out the window or at least set them aside to give yourself a chance on stage in a scene.

Improv is an art form that requires total presence to connect fully with your partner(s) and listen to the “offers” that your partner put on the table.  An offer in an improv scene can be an action, reaction or a line that you partner gives in response to you, your actions and reactions.  In theory, this all sounds easy, but there is one natural obstacle that appears often both in life and on stage… judgment.  Judgment is crippling and can suck the air out of creativity, if you let it.  I don’t know where judgment comes from, but it is something that affects everyone.  Improvisors judge what they are going to say, what they said and what they did, they sometimes judge their partners(s) thoughts, actions and words.  Sometimes improvisors lose their footing in a scene because they start to doubt themselves, their partners or the scene.

To over come judgment and doubt, the improvisor has to learn to trust themselves and their partners.  Part of trusting yourself is to push judgment aside because it pulls you out of the moment.  You have to trust your instincts to allow any idea that comes to mind guide you in the scene from what you say or how you act or react in the scene.  My intuition has gotten very strong as a result of listening and trusting my instincts.  That is one of the reasons I decided to take my leap of faith to re-direct my approach to life.  This brings me back to why I love improv.  It can teach you so much about yourself (if you let it), about life and about story.  On stage, like in life, a scene or character can change from moment to moment and to respond to it, it is imperative that you are present.

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A week ago I mentioned that the leap of faith was weighing on me and caused me to doubt my decision.  Last week a sense of calm came over me which was reassurance that I am right where I need to be.  While I am in the thick of the dark unknown, what I have discovered is that I have a sense of calm that can only be described as total presence.  A presence like this is the most heightened that I have ever experienced.  I have only experienced presence in improv and earlier this year when I met a “soul mate”.  I am no longer afraid to look fear in the eye.  And I have accepted what is to come and have chosen to let go even more to see this leap through.  While I am still in uncertain ground, experiencing the piece of presence has been beautiful.

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