Back in 2011, I was horribly depressed. My on-again-off-again boyfriend of nearly 10 years broke my heart by dumping me over the phone, and then moving to the Middle East over Halloween weekend. Halloween is my favorite holiday. I was going to go out to a few parties that weekend as "Baby One More Time" Britney Spears. Instead, I stayed at home in bed with my cat, ate ice cream, and cried.
I started going to a wonderful therapist, who helped tremendously - and I also started taking improv classes to distract myself. Improv was something I had always wanted to do, and having the free time (i.e., not being in an emotionally draining, co-dependent relationship) allowed me the freedom to pour myself into it. I fell in love again, but this time, with improv.
I had gotten my degree in theatre back in 2009, and had been living in Seattle since 2010, working day jobs and acting at night and on the weekends, trying to build my film and theatre resume up. So, I was pretty well-versed in how things went in a professional theatre scene, but hadn't done much improv. I knew it was a separate branch on the acting tree, and didn't know if it would be my thing. But it was my thing, and it was probably what pulled me back from the edge, so to speak. While some of my best acting teachers told me not to use acting as therapy, it's pretty hard not to. Some of the best life lessons I ever learned came from acting, and in particular, from improv:
"Yes And"-ing something is a core tenant of improvisation. It means that when someone makes you an offer onstage, you should accept it - always (as long as you're not in danger, of course!); even if that offer is absurd, or you don't know anything about the subject matter. Saying "yes," to opportunities, no matter how out-of-the-ordinary they seem, can do wonders for your psyche - and your scene.
Supporting Your Partner
In improv, you have to have your partner's back - no matter what. On the team that I'm currently a part of, we say, "I got your back," to one another just before we step on stage. It's a nice reminder of this being another main rule of improv - whether it's physically, emotionally, or mentally, you must support your partner. This plays a lot into "yes and-ing" your partner, too. Having near-constant support - no matter what - does wonders for your attitude, both on-and-off stage.
Don't Ask Questions
One of the best things about improv, in my opinion, is that there are no hard and fast rules. I mean, everyone has to follow some rules when they're learning a new discipline, but rules can be broken once you have mastered them. A good improv rule to follow when you're first learning the art form is to stay away from questions. Audiences don't care about niceties - we don't need to ask each other how the weather is. We know how the weather is - it's AMAZING, or the WORST WEATHER EVER. In improv, you get to have all the answers, unlike in life! See? It's great therapy.
We have an improv intensive workshop coming up at the end July - click the link to sign up!