DRUM ROLL PLEASE! I performed my very first improv show on Friday! Ta-daaa!
I was so nervous that I didn't eat hardly anything all day... an especially odd behaviour given my regular routine of eating every two hours.
But the show was a great success, thanks mostly to the fact that I played with a fabulous group of people. Oh AND, Bren played that same night too, in the show after mine. We're an improv family!
This is my favorite scene of the entire thing. That's Laura, the other non-actor-wife-of-an-excellent-improv'er type in our group, my soul-sistah from day one. This scene was extra special because not only did I get to play with Laura, I also got to do a completely silent scene; I have always treasured silent scenes, where the only communication between the players is through their eyes and their bodies. To me, THAT is the magic of improv, where you are so connected to another person that words aren't needed. Laura and I accomplished that! And it went so well that the audience cheered once the scene was over! That hardly ever happens!
I have been taking improv classes for a year now, inspired by Bren's blooming after he took 'em. And as odd as it might sound, improv taught me some valuable lessons about how I should tackle my life.
I am most grateful to improv because it gave me the confidence to improvise in the kitchen, resulting in my first ever recipe, "I Ain't Chicken Chicken". I have been improvising in the kitchen ever since, and it now feels so natural to me that I can't imagine NOT cooking this way. Improv unearthed a buried talent in me, and in that way, has changed my life. I shot a cooking show (patience! it's coming!) and started a weekly Aarti Cooks series. I cannot say enough how much my identity has transformed this year from a recipe-follower... to a recipe-maker... and how happy that makes me.
Improv taught me to "focus out" -- put your focus on other people and figure out any way you can to make them look good. The less you focus on yourself, the better you look and the better time you have playing. Before the show, my friend Karen (in the photo below) whispered to each person, "I got your back!", which we then all whispered to each other, an affirmation that each person was safe because we would all be there to make him/her look good. And Karen really made me look good that night. Thanks K!
I am so grateful for all the people in my class -- each of them took a risk trusting me, which made me feel safe enough to trust them. What a relief from my daily life where my main concern is making myself look interesting or smart or pretty or witty or accomplished or or or... it's much more rewarding (and much less stressful!) to focus on someone other than yourself.
I'm learning to trust my instincts. I usually second-guess them. But I have learned to listen to my gut, make a decision based on my gut, and then stick to the decision. I am still working on this one, but I think I'm a lot better at it. Case in point -- getting the cooking show shot.
Improv reminded me of being a child again. Kuv and I would run around the house with a bedsheet knotted around our necks, and a badminton racket in one hand playing bad-ass female superheros. I didn't realise that playing in that way is still fun now, even when I'm a very serious and important adult (ha!).
I have always longed to be able to get silly with complete strangers, to be utterly open to the potential fun that can come out of taking a chance and getting goofy, without a thought to how silly it might look. I think this will make me a better mother too; I foresee epic imagination journeys with that kid. I had a great opportunity to test that skill in the real world the other day. Bren, Ross, Joo and I were at the farmers market after church the other week, and a little girl was breaking... it... down...
Normally, I would have stayed in my seat and watched, but when Ross got up to try to dance with her, I got up too, despite how silly I felt. We started dancing, other people gathered around and started to clap and that little girl got her 15 minutes in the sun! Woo-hoo! (Ross and I also tried to start a new dance move, but no one joined in. Hmph.)
Most of all, improv has taught me to be fearless. On day one of class, as we went around and talked about why we had decided to take the class, the word "fearless" came up time and time again. We all live in fear of making the wrong decision, of going for something we really want when the possibility of failure is very real, of wondering what other people will think of us. I can honestly say that on Friday, when I was rolling on the ground like a fool in front of an audience, it was the most fearless I have ever felt. And I'm going to try to hold on to that feeling forever and ever.
If you're in town, come see our show, every Friday until Dec 12th, at 8pm. Hothouse Improvised Theatre.