The Second City improv company performing at Laugh Out LAM, Toronto in 2012
I will admit, I hate making a fool of myself. I mean- I really hate it.
If I could avoid making a fool out of myself for my entire life, I would do it. I promise. But I can’t.
And since I’m a journalist, and creating good stories means living what I’m writing (and I’m writing a story on improvisation) I went to the Second City’s drop-in night on Monday to try it out.
Nervous as I was, I was ever-so-slightly pacified by the women I had interviewed earlier that week, who said that improvisation helps people – men, women, children and adults – gain confidence and self-esteem.
So I walked into that room, searching for someone (anyone!), and I met a girl with a gigantic smile and an openness that captivated me immediately. She said she was a regular at these events and that I was about to have a lot of fun. Phew.
A few minutes later, another girl seated herself directly next to me. She told me she had acted in the past, but had never been to an improvisation class before. She looked about as comfortable as I did.
Over the next two hours, those two girls and I (along with the teacher and 19 other students) played games, struck poses and finished each other’s sentences.
One of the very first games had students stand in a circle and say the first word that came to their minds after the previous student had said a word. And when my turn came, I responded uncertainly with the word ‘province?’ (even though I had been trying to plan my word since the circle started). That is when I learned my first lesson of the night.
Cary West, my fantastic teacher, pointed out the obvious uncertainty in question mark response, and told the entire class something that I will now never forget; there is no need for a question mark at the end of your response, because in improvisation, there are no wrong answers.
This concept blew my mind, and was repeated throughout the night. My previous interviewees had mentioned the same, but experiencing it created a whole new level of understanding for me.
There is no ‘no’ in improvisation, because if there were, it would be impossible to create anything. One of the first things that you are taught in improvisation is that the answer to anyone’s words or actions should never be no, it should be ‘Yes, and…’
I was surprised at how this could make me feel so much more comfortable in expressing my ideas. If you’re not wrong, and I’m not wrong, then we are just exchanging ideas without the possibility of being rejected. And isn’t rejection, after all, one of the things we fear most?
Improvisation, for me, gave me the confidence to express myself more freely than I had since I was a child. And if that can happen in just one class, then I can only imagine the benefits that it would have for people who practice it on a regular basis.
– Kristin Eliason
The Second City offers drop-in improv classes every Monday from 6-8pm for $15. The classes are held at The Training Center, 70 Peter Street, Lower Level.
Read Kristin’s full article on the benefits of improvisation in the December issue of rouse magazine.