Have you ever been stumped for something to say in conversation? I think it is fairly safe to state that we all have, but imagine if you were in the middle of a dialogue and just did not have a choice to pause for a moment and collect your thoughts. What if you were in a situation where no matter what, you were expected to come up with something interesting and/or entertaining to say without missing a beat. What would you do?
Well, dear reader, I have consciously put myself into circumstances where that is exactly what I will be uncovering for the next 7 weeks. I am going to learn about the art of improvisational theatre! For those unfamiliar, improvisational theatre, usually called improv by those who follow it, is an act of executing or of composing a performance without any previous preparation.
In fact, I have already begun my own journey, as I completed the second improv class just this afternoon! I happen to be taking musical improv as well, but we will save that for a later post…
So why would I sign up for improv if I am a visual artist and confirmed introvert? Is that what you want to know friend? I firmly believe that we should purposefully look for opportunities to challenge ourselves and grow beyond the comfort zones everyone becomes guilty of living within. One way to do that is by becoming vulnerable and going after new pursuits.
Adding on to that idea, my improv instructor spoke of the importance of vulnerability in the first class last week, and while I admit that I did not write down what he said specifically of the topic or which author he drew his reference from initially, it was a profound point that was made – I will come back to the reason I personally found the point so important in a moment, but first I want to describe the topic of vulnerability within theatre in greater detail.
After spending some time reading on the subject of vulnerability on my own this week, I came across this article which goes over the topic with consideration and which I believe retains the thrust of what I learned that first day. Below is a snippet for those who don’t wish to read the linked article, but would like some context.
Vulnerability is not good or bad, it is simply real. Some kinds of vulnerability feel awesome and some feel terrifying. All vulnerability is profoundly experiential and memorable. The more we learn how to nurture our vulnerability, the more intimacy we can experience and the safer and happier we are likely to be in the world.
Actors need to access vulnerability in order to portray their character authentically. When this vulnerability does not transpire, the audience will often use words like “wooden” or “lacking” to describe the characterization they see on stage. Adding on to that idea, one of the major reasons why actors get paid in the first place is because a great majority of people are not comfortable with their emotions but can definitely appreciate when someone achieves those emotions in art. We usually say things like “I can totally relate to that” or “I’ve been there.”
For those of use who are not in the performing arts, there are other major benefits from becoming vulnerable and thinking actively. For example, we can better respond to those around us when we are communicating because we become invested in a giving way, without giving up. Many of the warmup exercises and improv games my classmates and I have been learning teach this notion consistently. Whether it is recognizing the energy of individual members, accessing the energy of the troupe or simply saying “yes” to what is happening on stage, we work on becoming better communicators.
Now back to me: the reason I personally found this concept of vulnerability so vital is that I am acutely aware of how challenging it can be to connect with other people and how rewarding it can be once that starts to happen. What is exciting about learning improv is that opportunity to use body language and become more aware of it in other people.
On top of that, the techniques we are learning force us out of our comfort zones, and pit me against my own worst enemy – My desire to formulate my thoughts perfectly before stating what I want to say. There is no time for that in an improvised play. You will not get to learn your lines because you have to make them up as you go! This is yet another way that the arts can help to improve life and allow us to have fun at the same time.
What sorts of quirks do you have that you want to work on? Tell me about them in the comments! Or send me an email!
That’s all the theories I have this time around.