Level 3 Improv class has turned out to be acting class and I never thought I’d be in theater. I mean, I go to the theater, love the theater, and I have always been happy to be on this side of the stage. Guess what? I’m learning to emote and to create characters that have depth. It’s one thing to write a good script, quite another to act one out. I took Improv because I can be fairly “wooden” and it is one of the bigger challenges I’ve taken on. I don’t have stage fright, when it comes to delivering a speech, but I have terrible misgivings about getting out there and acting nuts. Improv will help you push through that, to push through fear.
Last night, we had to come up with a short description of something we did during the day, three sentences. Mine was , “I had a blog to write and no ideas. Then someone did something to piss me off and I had the emotion to write something that was pretty good.” Simple enough, all 10 of us went to different corners of the theater while our teacher Jay Hopkins named off different emotions, “Anger”, “Rage”, “Frustration” etc. and we all said our lines with the designated emotion. All in all, we did 85 emotions in 30 minutes and we were exhausted when it was done.
Talk about therapy! This very theater exercise taught us that fear is not something that will get in the way if we don’t have a choice. 85 emotions in 3o minutes doesn’t give you time to be afraid, you just react. (Interestingly, the only emotion I absolutely could not do? Hate. Just don’t have that one anymore.) I got a glimpse of what every single hero says, “I didn’t think about it, I just reacted.” While there is nothing heroic about screaming in an empty theater, I did learn that I don’t have as many limits as I thought I did.
We learned subtlety, we learned how to bring physical attributes and we learned to create a character from within. It became easy for me to see why actors can be so shy. When you deal in delivering emotions on command, it can be difficult to know when you are acting and when you are not. Observing becomes important, my version of joy and yours are completely different, as an actor you notice the difference. And: when you show emotions of your own, you observe and wonder about them too.
This morning, I talked to a friend whose new husband has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It took Barbara almost 60 years to find the love of her life and she got less than a year of marriage before he was hospitalized. Bob couldn’t do the exercise I did last night, he has enough trouble knowing who he is, never mind playing with emotions. Barbara has plenty of emotions, none of them are particularly happy ones. She feels loss, grief, anger, frustration and more than a little rage. She’s had to push through fear, she’s had to simply react to a bad situation that she didn’t ask for.
Most of all, she is lonely. I suggested she do something for herself today, get a massage, rent a comedy, remember laughter. I suggested that she deserves to do a little something just for her. I don’t think she’d thought of that for quite a while.
When I hung up the phone, I realized that I was feeling emotions too, no acting class required. God Bless you Barbara, I thought I knew about pushing through fear and then I talked to you. You are a quiet hero.