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Emilia’s First Improv!

July 1, 2010

You know — after going to my first improv class I’ve discovered something: the statement “Nothing is ever as it seems,” is totally, 100% true. Before the class — improv terrified me. It seemed like this brutal, trying ordeal where it’s you competing against the people in your scene and basically the entire world. I thought it was a witty battle to the death — and only one of you gets out alive. I thought it was a judgmental, every-man-for-themselves catastrophe.

But I was wrong.

Do you know what the golden rule of improv is? It’s, “Make each other look good.” Isn’t that crazy? And in improv, you’re always supposed to say, “Yes! And …” Not only are you supposed to agree, but you’re supposed to build an idea with someone. It’s a team effort, and you’re all in it together. Improv (when done correctly) is a selfless thing that does its best to be so inspirational that it makes everyone on stage perform to the best of their abilities.

I was afraid to go to class. I thought, “Okay, class hasn’t started yet — I could easily just drive home, watch a good movie, order in pizza and have a nice, easy night.” There would be no stress there, no difficulties — just me livin’ on easy street.

And that is why I knew I had to go. I basically knew that if I did end up going home and doing all of the aforementioned things, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy any of it because I’d be thinking, “This isn’t where you’re supposed to be, you pathetic scaredy-cat.”

I wasn’t going to put myself through that. At that point, I knew I’d rather suffer through the embarrasing catastrophe that I was sure was going to be improv class instead of the anguished dejection I knew I’d feel at home if I was knee-deep in pizza and Robert Pattinson movies.

So, to improv I went. And, like everyone else, I was nervous. All my classmates were there already (because, of course, I got lost on the way to class because, you know, I was unfortunatly born without a sense of direction), and we were all nervously chatting in the lobby of the theatre. We were all silently sizing each other up, thinking, “I think I’m funnier than her,” “He looks like a total loser,” “I’m doomed,” not realizing that those are the worst kind of thoughts you can have in improv.

Our teacher’s name is Lauren Pritchard — and she conveyed to us the energy, optimism and willingness that is essential for successful, fun improv. She taught us that improv is a game you “play,” and “Yes” is your best friend. She told us that it’s okay to fail because, hey, what’s the worst that could happen? She said that if your brain ever just totally farts on you in class, simply turn towards the audience, spread your arms wide and say, “I have failed!” and then bow as the rest of your class cheers you on with applause and smiles.

The most important thing our class learned is to not judge each other — instead, we should become the most supportive people in the universe. I remember feeling so surprised when one of my classmates got up to say something, and it didn’t really work for the scene. You could visibly see that the classmate felt awkward, and he slowly backed away. Suddenly, the room erupted in applause. If anything, we were all more proud of him for trying something out and failing than we would have been if he had been funny!

And it was right then that I lost all my fear for improv. My biggest fear had always been the fear of failure, but once failure had lost every aspect that once made it scary — what was there to fear? Nothing! All that was left was a magnificent opportunity to put myself out there in front of people who want the best for me, who want to make me look good, who want to say “Yes!” to everything I had to say.

The following scenario happened about 339,209,312 times:

Lauren: What is the golden rule of improv?
Class (in loud, cheerful unison): Make each other look good!
Lauren: What do we always say in improv?
Class (in loud, cheerful unison): Yes, and!
Lauren: What do we never say in improv?
Class (in loud, cheerful unison): No!
Lauren: Because it’s a …
Class (in loud, cheerful unison): Block!
Lauren: Ooo, round up dem doggies!
Class (in loud, cheerful unison): Ooo, round up dem doggies!

The last line would always be something totally random that we all just went for because YES was our mission statement.

The class was supposed to be three hours long, but it ended up going for three and a half hours, and, when all was said and done, I felt like the time had just flown right by. I checked my clock and it was 7 p.m., then 15 minutes later I checked it and it was 10. My next class couldn’t possibly come soon enough, and I cannot wait to create comedy with my classmates again!

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