Last week, I participated in a five day improvisation class in Hollywood at the Second City Training Center.
I had the time of my life.
I feel like I was just introduced to the third level of consciousness -- "improv consciousness". There is the time when you sleep, the time when you are awake, and the time you are doing improv. While doing improv, I felt hyper-awake. It was like drinking cup after cup of espresso continuously for 96 hours. Bright lights emanated out of every pore of my skin. It was definitely a feeling I have never had before.
Our instructor was the Second City Artistic Director David Razowsky. He was beyond excellent -- he was an inspirational, master guru of improv instruction. Razowsky created a safe environment. He introduced us to all the elements of narrative improv. Like most people, I thought it was a matter of spontaneously coming up with pithy one-liners and getting a laugh. I was wrong. This was all about emotionally connecting with our partner and responding to our partner. Razowsky coached us, supported us, and encouraged us. He learned all of our names and all of our strengths and weaknesses.
I got an amazing amount of individual attention and personal coaching, as did my classmates. Razowsky also followed all the principles for teaching adults -- minimize the lectures, get the students doing exercises with each other, mix it up. He also focussed on the zen of the moment. We would try something, and if it did not work, we felt it experientially, and Razowsky let it go and moved on to the next thing. So there were no scoldings, reprimands, lectures, just gentle reminders.
For the week of our Total Immersion class, I felt every human emotion deeply, strongly and intensely. It was hard to shake the feeling when class ended. I had social events to attend with my husband every night, and while I was physically present, my brain was consumed with what had happened during the day, replaying all the moments, trying new things, creating new characters. I got very little sleep -- how does one sleep when one is doing the emotional equivalent of chain-drinking espresso?
I also developed a completely new view of actors. I made an assumption that temperamental, emotional, and insecure people go into acting. Now I realize that it is the work of acting that makes them that way. They are putting everything into their performance. It is a lot to demand of them, it is a lot to expect of them, and it is personally devastating when it is not appreciated.
It is also completely exhausting.
By Thursday I was really dragging and making lots of mistakes. I had a huge number of business commitments on Thursday night and Friday. I tried, but I could not rearrange them, and I could not make it to the last day of the class and our big ensemble performance.
I was very disappointed.
BUT... I am just going to figure out how I can go back for more. I am hooked!