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Improbably Improvisational

November 11, 2009

It was a perfect comedy improv moment. It made our teacher happy, and I saw it through his eyes for a split second. What he had been talking about for six straight weeks clicked: Be in the moment. Support your fellow actors. Say “Yes!” to what is happening in front of you. Don’t look for the funny. It will find you.

The six actors on stage were pretending to be in a small aircraft. They looked for all the world like the cast of an imaginary play called “Chaos on a Plane!” But then it happened.

The actor playing the pilot started pretending he had lost control of the plane. As he looked out the cockpit window in mock horror, he leaned stage right, mimicking a dive. At that split second, the other actors on the plane all leaned stage right as well — in unison.

A small thing, perhaps, to the untrained eye, but to anyone grounded in improv, it was magic. And, the audience of students roared in appreciation.

There was no way logically that the people on stage knew what the others would do in that moment, yet they all moved in the same direction, as if on cue. They were in tune with each other. They were in the now. And they said “Yes!” to the scene, just like the good little improv players they were being trained to become.

Improv is like life: The good stuff can be fleeting but that’s what makes the hellish rest of it worthwhile.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike Black permalink
    November 12, 2009 5:58 pm

    Loved your words. I feel honored to have been in the room during your perfect comedy moment. It was a great moment! I am started the next class on the 17th.

  2. Wov permalink
    November 12, 2009 7:58 pm

    You had the unusual luck of having a very, very serious and experienced improv teacher – Westfall’s a master. FYI that in addition to the DC Improv classes, there’s also a thriving program at http://www.washingtonimprovtheater.com

  3. Julie permalink
    November 13, 2009 8:22 pm

    You tended to be one of the last, and somewhat more reluctant, class members to get on stage each week, but each week you proved to be well worth the wait. You nailed your characters, from the subtle to the sublime. I totally agree, lots of good memories of working with a ecclectic hodgepodge of DC characters. I wish I was in your class this semester!

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