A long time ago I took this improv acting class.
Somebody recommended it to me, and I thought it was about telling jokes.
But it was about something much, much deeper.
Most of us think of improv as comedy. Guy up on stage telling a bunch of random stories.
Even that isn’t really improv. The reason it sounds so natural is those comedians spend plenty of time coming up all kinds of jokes on all kinds of topics.
So no matter what idea or topic comes up, they’ve got a ready stream of prepackaged jokes and stories to roll with.
Kind of like studying all kinds of martial arts moves. The more moves you know, and can reproduce unconsciously, the better you’ll be able to fight. No matter WHAT your opponent throws at you, you’ll be able to come up with an appropriate counter move.
In that improv class we did a lot of “trust” exercises. A lot of stuff where we had to make up stuff on the spot, and “trust” our acting partners not to leave us hanging.
If you are up on stage, and you mess up, and all the other actors just stare at you like you’re some goof, it’s not a good situation.
On the other hand, if ALL actors are practiced in the “art” of responding congruently to ANYTHING that comes up, you can put on a pretty good show.
One that is organic and evolving and nobody, even the actors, know what’s going to happen next.
It’s almost like some “story” floats down from the heavens and the actors simply “hear” their lines microseconds before they speak them.
Some actors are TERRIFIED of doing improv, especially in front of strangers. They would much rather have somebody else write their lines, have somebody else tell them where to stand when they say them, and even HOW to say them.
Even then they feel the need to practice over and over until they are SURE everything will go according to plan.
Unfortunately, a lot of people live their lives according to the “classically trained actor” strategy instead of the “improv actor” strategy.
They want to be told what to do, how to do it, what to happen if X, Y and Z occurs, and they need an entire support crew so that if something goes wrong, nobody will ever blame anybody.
However, with most people on Earth acting like that (lol), is it any wonder most people live lives that can be called “quiet desperation”?
The secret is to go boldly out into your future. Take action, even when you aren’t sure what’s going to happen. Just believe in yourself enough to know what to do.
Scary? Yes. Guaranteed success? Nope.
But you’ll see and experience a world few know exist.