I forgot to write about it yesterday because I was too busy but yesterday, 2/23 was the one year anniversary of starting my Level 1 Improv class at the Providence Improv Guild. Prior I had no comedy experience and my performing experience was limited to middle school and cosplay masquerades. I was a vlogger though and when I watched another YouTube personality state they were taking classes at the UCB, then I Googled for the closes improv to me and found PIG. (It was the Thursday before the class started.) I just signed up on a whim. I figured it couldn’t hurt, I might learn something, and I hadn’t taken a class in years.
I remember walking into the class of strangers unsure of what was actually going to happen. I imagined corporate types looking to explore the arts fumbling through the idea of playing pretend. The nice thought was we were all new. No one would know what they were doing. Or I thought. In the cast of characters there were definitely personalities perfect for improv and some who would take some time.
Fortunately, our friendly professor in a blazer was Stuart Wilson. (If you’ve read my blog before, you may know this isn’t the first time I have mentioned Stu but more on that below.) He often talked of working with kids and teaching them improv. If kids could do it, then of course fully grown educated adults could right?
The first weeks were painful at times. We didn’t know each other. Between learning names and trying not to feel incompetence in front of these new people, it was hard. The over achiever in me wanted homework and anything else I could do to improve. Looking back now, I see what I could have done, but hindsight is twenty-twenty.
Eventually through emails which transpired between weekly classes, I convinced everyone to start heading to a bar before or after class to just hang out. A simple thought but this non-structured social time gave everyone some time to let loose and get to know each other. We’d talk about class, our lives, how scared we were about the upcoming showcase, and usually we’d have Stu there with us to answer our questions.
The progress was tangible after each class where we socialized. I had even found a class best friend in Jess Harkins. (She’s also a blogger and activist.) Our scenes together often reflected friends or sisters and it came much easier than with other females in the class. Bonus! We were actually funny at times. I can only attribute this to our new friendship and frequent messaging between weekly classes.
As the showcase neared I remember everyone being nervous. We were going to go up in two groups because our class was so large and we spent some time separated from our safety in numbers. Could we do this with less people? Less ideas? Less experience? We would find out. Unfortunately, I don’t believe there is a video of the performance.
Then it happened. I don’t remember how long it was. Probably between 8-15 mins but 8 weeks of learning was laid out on that stage. I remember feeling exhausted, angry, and worried afterwards. All the nerves and excitement had finally busted out onto that stage. I was angry because so often no one else was getting onto the stage to start the next scene and since we were told “don’t leave the stage empty” I constantly jumped up. I was worried that I did would get in trouble for hogging the stage. I wanted to share it with my class/teammates and enjoy it together. When I was up there on the stage, I remember being so focused on everything that I forgot about the audience. I wasn’t scared of them because we were in it together. Afterwards my teammates told me how well I did. I was surprised by this. I thought I had let them down. I asked them if they thought I hogged the stage. They were happy I did (wait, what?) because they were still scared. I hadn’t thought of that. I couldn’t stay angry at them, but I wanted them to have fun too and they did. We celebrated by going out for drinks at E&O.
What did I learn the most about all of this?
No doubt. Fear or doubt is basically you stopping yourself from being awesome.
Improv is a great way to make friends. Prior to improv, I didn’t have many friends in the Providence area. Now I have more than I can count.
Socializing is important when working together. Some people remarked how they wished they had started going out for drinks sooner once the performance was over. It was a great help.
Stu had 8 blazers. He wore a different one every week. The teal one was my fav.
Since level 1, I have remained friends with a good portion of my class. We performed once together and met up a few times. Jess has moved to DC which was a bummer but we all still group text message to catch up. I had the ability to work with Stu in The Dean at the Dean as part of the 2015 Providence Fringe Festival. Which all transpired from a socializing session after improv. I’m still learning with PIG and am currently taking Level 3.
I have continued to find it very hard to work with people I don’t know. Improv can be intimate at times when it comes to trust. Being self aware, I am working on improving this but I am happy to say that I have found one person who I trust more than most. Nina Shaut (who I met through PIG) and I enjoy working together and have formed a relationship over the past 17 weeks. (Yes, I checked instagram for our first selfie together.) In a week from today Hair Deux Oh! will make it’s debut at LuLz! Comedy Night. (3/2 9pm $6 AS220) I am super excited as this is my first “official” improv team.
Thank you to the random YouTuber who suggested improv classes. You have no idea what you unleashed on the Providence community. Have mercy on your soul.