Tag Archives: Improv

an improvised life

30 Apr

one of my improv classmates, Michael Lacey, won a speech contest at the Citadel here in Charleston.  This is his winning speech – An Improvised Life…

http://mediasite.nation.citadel.edu/Mediasite/Play/642fcf27e8664ee9870849323bae9eb01d

do the opposite

20 Apr

maskwoman

Basically this –  I’m afraid.

My acceptance into the improv company and the reality of actually performing in front of a live audience as a regular gig has me quite afraid.  Who is afraid?  Who watches the fear?

The body increases the heart rate in response to thoughts; the air flow constricts, the body pulls into itself, almost wanting to opossum itself under her chair.

What a  gift – to be feeling fear – and to get to experience the body and mind in this fear and to recognize the infinite array of choice here.

I’ve had a tendency (I guess that is what we do as human animals-have tendencies toward certain behaviors) to retreat.  I can get into my passive mode fairly easily, allowing myself to be taken by the currents, flowing with the go :), but not initiating the go, so much.

Where does the teaching come from that suggests one do the opposite of the habit or tendency as a practice toward the middle path?    One guru would be George Costanza from the Sienfeld show 😛

What compels us to do anything on this planet in our human bodies?  Dancers dance, singers sing:  why do I have hangups about just doing what it is I seem to be able to do?

The opposite for me here is that instead of retreating, I am walking straight into the fire of my fear.  My self doubt is tedious to me.  When I went to see a show this week, my little self was screaming inside, “You can’t do that.  Why did they want you in this company?  These people are all so funny and clever and spontaneous!”  And then those thoughts got old.  And I realized that I can say the opposite to myself,  of course.   I can stay open to the moment of whatever all of this brings.

What is difficult is that while you learn a new way of doing something, you make a lot of mistakes.  I say improv is a failure-based art form because inexperienced players fail almost every time they try to do a scene.[…]  Improvisors need to recondition themselves to see failure not as a negative.  Greg Tavares, Improv for Everyone  (Greg is one of my teachers)

Do I really care about success here?  NO, not really.  I just like to play.  And having an audience watch me play with others who like to stay in the moment in a massive game of silly pretend is of no matter.  I can do this.  Improv is a failure driven art form.  Life is a failure driven art form.  To live your life – the life of your own – you ultimately give up expectations and definitions of success and failure and just do what you are going to do.  The praise or rejection comes to no consequence.

In the world of improv,  My name is George, I’m unemployed and I live with my parents can even become a most powerful and attracting introduction.

no, but…

31 Mar

I take a lot of vitamins and supplements everyday.  Getting them out the the jars and into my stomach is a morning ritual.  Each morning it hits me that I can hardly tell the difference between yesterday morning and today.  The same action repeated every day makes the days seem short.  Staring at myself brushing my teeth at night can give me the same time-warp feeling, as if just a minute or two pass, and here I find myself again, taking my vitamins, brushing my teeth.  The moments between that shake things up can pull me out of habits and patterns, make each moment fresh again.

A part of me, like the part that knows to beat my heart, the part that knows to digest food, the part that takes me on  my night time journeys, also draws experiences to me – custom made to help me learn, grow, wake up again and again.

I Love love love seeing the things I bring into my experience:

from breath-holding challenges to downhill releases,

from upturning changes to much of the same,

from tsunami waves to gentle currents of ease…

we all get it all.

I’m playing all parts on this journey as well as watching her fill her plate from the buffet spread  out before her.

The funniest thing to watch – to my dark humor –  is me being blind to my own blind spots.  The turn around of karma has me laughing at someone tripping only to find myself sliding on a banana peel moments later. (metaphor!  Not laughing at people tripping:)  The funny part is me on the banana peel.

The name of this blog in spotlights is me seeing my  own life as improv.  The first rule you learn in improv is “Yes, and…”  meaning that when your partner initiates a scene, you accept the reality of that scene.  You do not contradict the world they are trying to create; you join it, and add to it.

So my premise for this blogging was that the path to remembering involved saying “Yes, and…” to life itself.  Life flow is my partner who initiates scenes and I answer yes…

So I was called out of the blue and asked to audition for an improv company. WHOOO HOO to most, but  I was so surprised and confused by this, I actually started to answer with a “No, but…”

My friend DK sent me these wise, wedging words –  He is ever  lovely to hold up the mirror–

Morpheus

For all my “knowing” the path, here I was saying, “NO, but…”

So I released any thoughts I had, went to the silly, old audition because IT didn’t matter for anything except to walk the path with a YES as this was clearly being placed before me by my scene partner – life.    I had a crazy good time.

I was ready with my, “oh that’s okay, it was just fun to try” response (insert eye roll here) when they called to ask me to join the company.

When this call made my heart race, I was confused.  My heart hasn’t raced that way in a long while.  Seems a good reminder that  I am in a body, and I have blood and a heart and a mind and adrenaline.  There are activities that each of us enjoys, flows to, plays at.  Expressing these diminsions of ourselves is joining in to life, is part of the reason we take on a body.  What is up with my “No, but…?”

no matter.

The lesson is for me.  In All Ways.

Yes, dammit,  yes, and………….here i go!

“…one who finds somehow in each moment, comes to each moment, fresh, not harboring some projections about what you intend to do and what you have done before – The excellence of that State so few enjoy…as stateless state…a complete freedom, your whole life can be like this.”  – Mooji

pine forest sway

6 Mar

pines

I drive to the bus stop every morning at 7.  Now the sun is coming up earlier and earlier, blinding us all on harbor view road.  One has to stay alert to see the road, to not veer off into the marsh on either side,  to avoid driving into the sun itself.

I was sitting at a stop light after the girls had gone off to their day. Lost in my thoughts I was,  creating a conversation in my head with a person I have to meet with next week, when suddenly my eyes focused ahead of me to the small pine forest across the street.  Everything STOPS.  Those trees were swaying in a choreography so compelling and alive, I was ashamed for a micro moment, then grateful, then just a pair of eyes watching the dance.

Dropped was the conversation, the story.  Trees were dancing for me.

Every moment is this!  Every moment.

There is nothing in this running commentary in my head.  No preparation is needed for a conversation; in fact, having thoughts of our exchange in my head, ahead of time, kills the conversation when it comes, kills a moment to come before it gets here, stops a dialogue from being a jazz riff, a dance, an improv scene.  Life is improv, if i let it.

Bill Murray and Actualizing the No Self

1 Feb

billmurrayimprov

Somehow I was not surprised when this quote from Bill Murray appeared to me and synchronized so seamlessly with the title of this blog.  His face has become way too familiar to me since I often show Groundhog Day to my Composition Classes for a Film Analysis assignment.    After my 20th time of seeing this movie, I wonder to myself: has his face somehow now become a canvas for the everyman?  How is it now that I might have merged character and actor into the cheeky poster boy for the hero’s journey – a life lived by making one’s own path through the forest?  How did this once seemingly silly man  become Nietzsche’s Ubermensch?  (Okay – I know I took it too far…AND, I am unqualified to drop a Nietzsche reference.)

I make the students write an analysis about the changes in Bill Murray’s character, Phil, who goes through a life journey by reliving a single day. (Sometimes good insight can slip in a door that looks like fluffy pluff.)  While discussing the movie, I often found myself using the phrase SELF-ACTUALIZATION and remembered that the phrase came from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.   When I first learned about Maslow’s theory in high school, his outlook so fully articulated the consensus of the life path within our modern culture that, at that time,  I internalized “belief” in this chart without realizing it.

Here it is:

maslows-hierarchy-of-needs

The basic idea implies that we need to start at the bottom and work our way up in life.  In this theory, we first figure out how to make enough money or situate ourselves to get our basic needs met, then we can gradually get all the other stuff on the pyramid, working up to greater levels of psychological and spiritual development in the process.

My life has led me up and down this pyramid over and over again, wiping out whole rungs at a time.    The way I see it now, some of the levels of this pyramid can actually get in the way of self-actualization, concepts such as security, achievements, belonging, safety, self-esteem!  These concepts are rabbit holes of delusion, stories of a false self, each one of them.

Think about how many are living by this idea.  Think how conditional self-actualization would actually be, according to this chart.  First you get enough physical security, then enough conditional love and acceptance from others, then enough status and respect, then finally, you are ready to learn who you really are enough to find purpose and meaning.

This is one of the lies that constructs our world.  You cannot find enough security, acceptance, and status to know the self; it isn’t even the right trail, yet most everyone is marching around as if this were true.

If you know the true self, you don’t need the other steps to prove your worth.  You take another journey altogether, a journey that doesn’t require you to be GOOD ENOUGH to know yourself.  The bloody pyramid is a constructed  mental HELL…sorry.

Seems to me  that self actualization in the human journey could be the first step, and then the other needs would either take care of themselves or become irrelevant.

Or do we need to go up and down the pyramid steps a bit in life in order to learn to point toward self-knowledge?

And what about this term  SELF-ACTUALIZED?

The path of remembering (the TRUE self beyond this world of duality) takes away the faulty concept of the constructed self so perhaps it should be, ACTUALIZATION of the NO SELF.

hmmmmmmm

Happy Groundhog Day!

“I” have every reason to worry,

19 Jan

but i don’t.  🙂

Improvisation and life – YES in a body is grinning, breathing, morning tea, a bit of a thrash to Seeingm‘s share;  thoughts are a passenger in the backseat…Enjoy Spacious Satyrday!

Merging

27 Nov

Eden is in a play. Good. But also, this means lots of rehearsals and late night pick ups. My days do start at 5:15, but even without that early start, I’m not a good late night girl – never have been.

So yesterday, after waiting for her text to come get her, after trying to keep myself awake enough to drive downtown to pick her up, after bundling up for the drop in temperature, I was vaguely feeling put out: tired, oblivious, chilled.

Crossing the bridge from James Island to downtown, listening to Terry Gross on Fresh Air interviewing someone about food and cooking, I passed a woman walking the 2 mile bridge alone in the cold and in the dark.

Where is this lady going? Is she safe by all the rushing cars? How must that breeze feel across the marsh and water as she trudges along?

Some days I think I struggle but…

I am in my warm car; my car works; I have enough money for the week, the month, the next foreseeable future. I have a beautiful actress waiting on me, depending on me. We have food; we have the freedom to enjoy whatever we can imagine…

Yeah, yeah, yeah… I just gave you the feel-good, junk food, Hallmark card of gratitude.

What I really want to say is that in that moment, when I see the lady crossing the bridge, in the dark, in the cold, alone, I become her. I do. I walk in those feet. Identity is so slippery, I feel like I have to be careful at the stoplights for I slip into every person behind the wheel of every car that goes by.

When Chloe was one, through strange circumstances, I found myself strolling through the red light district of Amsterdam with a baby strapped on my back. I was glancing about and suddenly locked eyes with a woman dancing in a window: Me dressed in such a costume of motherhood and her a woman almost naked trying hard to lure men inside in the afternoon, glaring sun. Such outward contrast, yet she and I both knew in that moment that we were one and the same. I was in the window, and she was walking along with a baby.

Through merging in this way came a “knowing” of how transportable, transient and transcendent we truly are! Don’t let the costumes fool you!

 

 

Addendum:

My friend sent me this clip, which came into her mind from this post.  Now I get to be Marlee Matlin too!  🙂

Scene from Bleep

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