I'd even thought a little bit about how people improvise in music and in dance, but I had always really associated improvisation with performance, especially with being on stage and especially with being funny on stage.
And I didn't think I was particularly funny.
I'd been told that the courses at the Improvisation Academy were different from regular improvisation classes for beginners. Most courses teach improvisation primarily with performance in mind, which is fine if you want to be on stage. And if you become more confident as a result or you gain some additional life skills, that's incidental. What the Improvisation Academy offers is a different perspective on improvisation that takes life as its starting point. By learning the basic skills and principles of improvisation for life, you learn to how to deal better with the unscripted. And let's face it, that's what life is like most of the time.
OK, so this was all right in theory, but I was still nervous. What if they asked me to perform to the group? What if I had to do something scary? What if, and this was the big one, what if, to be an improviser, you really have to be funny?
I've done two sessions now with Paul Z Jackson, our tutor for this course at the Improvisation Academy. Paul is highly experienced and excels at teaching improvisation. He creates an incredibly safe environment in which so far we've learned about the philosophy and history of improvisation, about being 'in the moment' and about 'Yes... And'. We are learning to go with ‘the obvious’. We've practiced turn-taking, and creating and developing stories.
After each practical activity, we talk as a group about what we have experienced and noticed. We consider how we can relate the activity to what we do in our everyday lives. I think these debrief sessions are important. I enjoy the switch between the practical 'doing' of the activity to the 'thinking' that the debrief requires. It helps me to see how the skills that we are practising in the session can apply to me, to my situation and to my life.
So the secret is out... there is no secret. There's nothing scary, you don't have to be funny - although there are plenty of laughs - and you don't have to do anything you don't want to do. I am really looking forward to the next 6 sessions, and I feel I am part of a group of interesting people who are keen to learn new skills and 'give it a go'. I'm making new friends, gaining more confidence both in the sessions and out. I'm learning to reflect more, to be far less self-conscious, to be more 'in the moment' and to be more open to new experiences (like writing this blog post for example). I would wholeheartedly recommend anyone giving the Improvisation Academy a go. I am sure you won't regret it."