“This is a great class, you guys are funny, you are really good at listening and supporting each other, but we have to do some exercises to ramp up the energy level. You are a very laid back class.” Charles, our little Improv teacher, was trying to get us out of our adult shells, to “play bigger.”
I have to tell you, writer guy here prides himself on being James Bond cool, on being able to slip into a room like a Ninja, even if it is a raucous party, I am a shadow. Like a diver entering a pool with no splash, I can enter a room full of people without anyone knowing I was there and then write about it like I was the life of the party. There’s quiet and then there’s Me; quiet wonders when I am going to perk up a little.
So that’s why I thought Charles was looking right at me when it came to the energy exercise. I’m pretty sure he knew, in the first week, I was uncomfortable standing on the stage of the empty theater and I have slowly stretched each week. Last night was the big stretch for me, being funny wasn’t enough, I had to act enthusiastic, silly, and loud. I wasn’t sure I had it in my DNA.
Here was the game, the sixteen of us formed a semi circle and Charles and the first volunteer did a little 10 second scene about a big brother and a little brother rolling marbles. Then, one player from each side of the semi circle would step in and replay the same scene, only bigger. Each pair after had to get even bigger, more emotion, more gestures, more over the top. Well, guess who was last? Yup, writer guy, and I found myself channeling Bruce Springsteen, oh yea, I was over the top. Not having ever been there, I had no point of reference, I pointed the skis straight down the double X trail and got in a tuck.
If, like me, you have never, ever, gone over the top, I recommend it. I abandoned coolness, I was The Boss as a marble roller, I was… not me. And; the roof didn’t fall in and people were laughing, laughing hard, and I didn’t shrivel up and die. It was a Middle Aged Crazy moment at its finest, I stretched, I grew, and I only feel a little stupid telling you about it today.
Charles pointed something out, actually it was the point of the exercise: our Improv got a LOT better. Once we boosted the energy level up to a 10, we stopped filtering our scenes and just went with it, which is the whole point of Improv. Improv is about working together, as a team, to build a scene and see if something funny happens. That funny is more likely to occur if you go with your first impulse and don’t try to force in something you were thinking before the scene started.
I’m pretty sure that raising the energy level, magnifying the emotion you are trying to communicate, will work in any creative outlet. This is probably why we think of artists as being a little eccentric. Being able to throw yourself totally into joy (or the blues, or jealousy, or love) leads to more spontaneous and deeper work. Granted, you have to achieve a certain skill level to produce good work, but, after last night, I believe that if you give two artists of equal talent the same project, the one who is more emotionally invested will produce better work.
The whole point of finding creativity in mid life is to give voice to your emotions. How about you, can you play bigger?