“Improvisation as an actor makes you present in the moment. You listen, you're attentive. You're not so much acting as reacting, which is what you're doing in life all the time.”
One of my sons majored in Theater in college. His favorite part of acting was the Improvisation Troupe he and friends in the theater department formed. I went to a couple of their performances, which were spirited and funny. The most anxiety-provoking part for me occurred when they took suggestions from the audience, and in the moment, improvised a skit that would go on for five or ten minutes. Counter to my nerves, it was invariably hilarious and fresh. The late, great Robin Williams commented that when Improvisation works, it's like “open field running;” you just go with it until it comes to a natural finish line. At the time, I wondered how on earth this would serve my son in the future, but now I realize that being able to think on your feet is a skill needed in all sorts of endeavors.
In life, we do improvisation every day. We see it almost every Sunday in the Spirituality Group. We start with a topic, but if the discussion leads us somewhere else, we follow that thread until it seems resolved. In the moment, people contribute what comes up for them, and each person builds on the others' thoughts and ideas. Talking something through to its natural conclusion is a great way to know what you're truly thinking and feeling. Sometimes, we don't know until it pops full blown into consciousness because someone else probed it with their words.
The necessary ingredient in any improvisational team is intuition—being able to sense where the others are going, pick up their tempo, and carry it along while putting your own twist on it. It requires close listening, being attentive in the present moment, and allowing, rather than forcing a response. Things bubble up and you say them, then they respond. It's like a dance, spontaneous and free, in which the partners are so tuned into each other there's no awkwardness. You just allow the dance to take you where you need to go. That's a good way to spend this Sabbath day. Dance on.
In the Spirit,