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  • Writer's pictureJeff McHugh

What Happened At The Improv?

Updated: Jan 10, 2020

Photo Credit: Curious Comedy Theatre

Have you ever done something that you did not enjoy but you did it anyway because it was good for you?

I did not enjoy my 7-week improvisational theatre class, but I highly recommend that you find one and sign up immediately.

My personal strength is preparation. In life and in career, I always have a plan. I don’t do random and spontaneous. Friends say I can occasionally be rigid!

That is why I enrolled at Portland’s Curious Comedy Theatre. If you are not familiar, improvisational theater is made up on the spot, instantaneously with no script. Like the popular TV show, Whose Line Is It Anyway?

“We applaud mistakes,” said coach Betse Green in the first class. This was disconcerting news to a person like me who hates making mistakes, but whenever anyone screwed up, the class cheered and they would take a big circus bow.

The class was fun, but I dreaded Wednesday nights. The exercises -- like the one where I had to act like a rhinoceros until someone guessed what animal I was – were challenging. I felt awkward and unfunny compared with more experienced players. It took determination for me to not skip class.

But I soon realized I was thinking faster and flexing ideas into words with less effort, as if my brain had taken yoga. I felt more confident on stage, and in work and life.

By the last class, I was unfazed by unpredictability and became comfortable adapting to whatever crazy thing happened. I even got a big laugh with a spontaneous joke in front of a packed audience on our last night.

I did not enjoy improv, but I am definitely doing it again. It was one of the most challenging things that I ever tried and it produced big, beneficial changes.

Improv is like going to the gym. You might not consider a workout fun, but it makes you stronger and healthier by stretching you beyond comfortable boundaries.

Improvisation is a great practice for reacting to life too. You never know what the universe will throw at you.

Coach Betse said, “If you think about it, everything you have done since waking up this morning has been improvisation.”

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