The gift of improvising


My first workshop I was somewhere between naive and terrified. I didn’t really know what to expect. I half thought I would be cast onto a stage and expected to deliver a well crafted masterpiece. Those anxious thoughts couldn’t have been further from the truth.

4 years ago I saw my first live improv performance, a few weeks later I attended my first class. And as if by magic, I was hooked. The freedom, the possibilities and the abundant creativity was a joy to be around.

In a function room above a little pub in Jesmond, Newcastle, I arrived at 6:30 for a class to start at 7.00. Part of my arriving early could be rationalised as being keen or excited, but to be truthful I wanted to compose myself a little before entering.

The social club on a Tuesday night was very quiet. I asked the barman if there was even a class on, part of me hoping I got the date or venue wrong. He confirmed there was in a very non excitable way, I guessed he wasn’t part of it. I crept up the stairs to see an empty floor with chairs around the edges. Luckily the organiser/improvisation director was there early too. I did the cautious ‘new guy’ routine and slowly made my way over to sit with him.

I asked the classic ‘is this the improv class?’ question. ‘It certainly is’. ‘How did you find us? What made you come along?’ I’d seen a live improve performance the previous month and it was the funniest, most memorising thing I’d seen in a long time. Even with my over enthusiastic plea, it was really good and I wanted to see more. As what made me come along, I was delivering an event that helped people be more creative and one of the participants said improv would be my kind of thing. So here I was.

I was welcomed with open arms.

Within only being there an hour, I felt huge benefits that I could barely grasp. If I was being a true improviser, I’d be present and focused on what was happening in front of me, not the elaborate plans going through my head (that would one day be put into this post to share with others).

As soon as I got home, skipping there with excitement, I began to wonder how this world had been hidden from me and people I know so for so long! How I could add this to the work I was doing? Who could learn from improv? What is there to learn exactly? Why don’t we all do this? Am I just being over excited or is this really good? I eventually fell asleep.

This was the beginning of my improvisation training. For 6 months I attended every week, each time becoming happier and happier in the company of fellow improvisers, people that know the golden rules that make anything possible. What a wonderful world to be in. What magic available!

So I urge you to get involved and see what all the fuss is about. Whether it’s to build your confidence in expressing yourself or maybe to improve your facilitation skills as I wanted do. Go find a nearby class or workshop!

Go be creative. Go express yourself. Go have fun!

(In another post I will explore the key behaviours that improvisers embody to make all of this possible and 4 skills leaders can learn from this exciting art form).

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