Reflections from an Improv Newbie, Week 3

Week 3

The third week of improv classes began much like the second, with stretching and warm-up games. After, Justin told us we’d do some quick warm-up scenes to get our creative juices flowing. We would act out three or four line scenes in pairs.

Know that feeling of panic when someone tells you to do something difficult or intimidating? Well, I had that feeling. I knew when I decided to take the class that there would be moments like these. I told myself that rather than clench up and waste my energy worrying about them, I would instead let myself feel the momentary panic and then move on. I did that, and I think my two scenes went pretty well. I don’t think I did anything brilliant, but I was able to think of a response to what my partner said, and just being able to do that felt like an achievement for the week.

Later we played a game where two people were given a situation and had to improvise a scene by replacing language with numbers. The purpose was to feel the emotion of the scene and read your partner’s body language without using words. I’ve found that I do pretty well with deciding to be a character and beginning the scene, but I’m very slow at times at reacting to what my partner does. It’s difficult to respond quickly. Again, the lesson always seems to be to slow down and give yourself time to respond. It’s a simple idea, but sometimes very difficult in practice.

I have some serious doubts about my ability to be funny. In the SCIT shows I’ve seen, people are featured who think and react to plot twists on the spot. The actors excel at creating a situation that seems normal and then twisting it at the last second to create something very far from normal. I wonder if there are people who never get to that level of mental agility, and sometimes I fear that if they exist, I might be one. It’s hard to imagine being so in the moment and thinking so freely that I could emulate the people I’ve seen onstage.

Only time will tell.

– Jillian McCarthy

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