It’s been over a year since I stepped into my first improv class. I remember how scared I was beforehand. The course had been an impulse buy that had occurred after a couple of glasses of wine and the finishing of Tina Fey’s book ‘Bossypants’. In between the click ‘buy’ and that moment outside the classroom doors, a month and half had gone by of a scared voice in my head saying ‘Don’t bother. You’ll embarrass yourself. What if you hate it?’
Looking back, I wonder how many times that voice has stopped me before. Was it the reason I didn’t perform at university? Is the voice why it took me years to try stand up? I’m sure we all have that voice inside of us – an awful human quirk that gets in the way of living life wholly.
In the case of improv, I decided to fight back. I stepped into that classroom full of fear but still full of hope. That voice will always tell you that new situations will be hostile. That newness is unwelcoming and cruel. However, entering that room I found people who were probably just as scared as me. Probably telling their own inner voices to pipe down.
The quietness of the room wasn’t unwelcoming, it was smothered in fear. What had we let ourselves into? Were we all mad for doing this? Nervously, I met eyes with people, who all smiled while shuffling their feet.
Here’s another fact about the voice, it’s very easily drowned out from the outside. Inwardly we struggle for the strength to shout over it, but others seem to act like buckets of water to its insidious fire. In the case of improv, this new voice came in the form of our new teacher Maria Peters.
Maria is the reason I fell in love with improv. Her love for the art form (and it is an art form, Sir. Naysayer) shines out of her. She was the lighthouse that guided myself and others to joyful silliness.
“Improv isn’t about being funny,” she told us as we stood in a human circle. “Improv is about making others look and feel good. No matter what you do, the person next to you will always be there to make you look your best.”
And just like that the voice finally shut the hell up.
Here’s the thing with improv, the thing that I’ve gleamed from my year in its cuddly hug, there’s no right or wrong way to do it. Everything is up for grabs. Go anywhere on the map. Dive for any treasure. If you want to be holding a gun, you’re holding a gun. If you want to be sitting on a rainbow, you’re sat on a rainbow.
Everything is possible in improv and that’s because everyone is making that happen. There’s a collective voice that choruses ‘YES!’
Maria started that loud affirmative echo in our class. Within a few weeks we knew that when we stepped up on stage we could make anything happen. If I wanted to be a fireman I could be. I could be the queen, a llama, David Cameron – anything! I was first and foremost an improviser and that meant I could be it all.
There’s always going to be something telling us that we can’t do something. A voice –whether from others or ourselves. But the real skill is finding that something that drowns that noise out.
For me that’s improv. On and off the stage I have a new confidence. I’ve never regretted entering that classroom, because now I have a new voice that tells me anything is possible.
If you fancy trying improv, I highly recommend using Hoopla for advice and SUPER courses: http://www.hooplaimpro.com/