Sunday, January 11, 2009

Improvise or Die

As my loyal readers (which appears to have dropped down to about two, maybe) may remember, I am a big fan of improvisational acting and comedy. I have been taking improv classes in Austin for 3 years, but because of my seasonal work on the Ice, I have never taken it to the "next level" of risktaking, which would be performing with a troupe - but one of the reasons I don't do that is because I have learned about myself, ironically, in improv, that the things that I am most afraid of are what I need to move to the next level: trust and commitment. Yesterday we had an exercise where we had to walk around with our eyes closed and let our classmates "take care of us," which is a  very difficult concept for me to embrace, and which goes hand in hand with trust. I broke out in a sweat, was afraid I was going to crash into people so didn't take the risk of trusting them. Improv can slam you with your fears like no other sort of therapy or self investigation because it continually forces you to act on your first impulse, and if you can't do that, you whole life flashes before you of how you've deferred to convention rather than to your true self. You immediately see it as  a big shiny mirror for your whole life: you find out how good you listen, how easily you give and take, how controlling you are, and if you have any buried shame, it will surface, interestingly enough perhaps while you are playing a scene speaking only in gibberish acting as a human with monkey-like mannerisms. Aside from these grim sounding therapeutic aspects (and that awful monkey tainted improv scenario!), improv is so much giddy fun that you get in touch with that little kid who just knew how to play (yesterday we did a sports commentator scene with an ultra slow-motion race where the contestants were miming deodorant application while I was turbo-commentating on their "race." It was hilarious!), which brings up another topic I've been discussing with my middle aged friends: how we played as kids versus how I see kids playing today. (And before I go off on that topic I want to linchpin this sprawling and nonsensical posting with it's dramatic title: I don't mean to "die" in the conventional sense of the "meat body" decaying, but more in the sense of never having lived. Improv can get you so in touch with life, and all it's beautiful & horrific edges, that to never know that level of life, for me at least, is to be dead. Dead like that beautiful Joyce story. Dead as in numb). Anyway, I work on a campus no one over 30 is walking around with an i-pod in their ears, but everyone under 30 is. I never see students walking around talking to each other but they are almost all talking on a cell phone (the ones without earbuds in). I am sitting in a coffee shop right now where everyone is on a laptop with earbuds in (I am wearing earPLUGS as I can't write with music playing, as it is here), which I like because I came here to write, but if I wanted to talk shit with my buds, I'd go outside or to a noisy coffee house. But anyway, when we were kids in the 60's, we had an old barbie, a stick, two crayons, our imaginations, and no one hovering over us EVER. We made up elaborate stories & plays & dramatic scenarios inspired by popular TV shows of the day. We drew &  painted & wrote & ran outside in the evenings until dark and had to completely entertain ourselves. We had no special classes or sports events we needed to be shuttled to, and no one pressuring us to do anything except be quiet inside the house. Because I never had many toys I don't need hardly any now. I've been writing almost daily since before I even spoke, so that has always been a fulfilling pastime, even if it nets me nothing except the simple pleasure and occasional joy of doing it. I sometimes wonder how these kids will turn out who have all these expensive entertainment devices handed to them on a frequent basis. I have my own absurdly shocking intimacy issues, and it's taken me about 16 years to figure out a non self-destructive way of coping with them, and I  am curious how the children of today (who care to) will start their practice of undoing their high tech addictions - or if they'll even need/care to. I just started facebooking & have a love/hate relationship with it because it is a truly  great and horrible thing at the same time. I have used it to pursue a chicy job I am waiting to hear about, but I also call it the "satanic time waster" as I can log onto it for "just a minute" and find myself sucked in an hour later looking at what everyone else is doing, comfortable at my safe distance, indulging one of my favorite guilty pleasures: spying. But I'm always relieved when I finally log off & go on a long walk or pet my dog or do something not on my computer. Which reminds me, I'm tired of this already, it is a beautiful day, and I'm going to go walk my dog! So pedestrian...yet almost radical in it's shunning of technology.