Fred warned us we would have trouble falling asleep.
He spoke from experience. He’s been performing Improv two-plus years and has graced the stage at Westside dozens of times.
Fred knew how it felt to be both high on adrenaline and drunk on laughter.
The applause was intoxicating. Our confidence was the equivalent of David, battling our fears of Goliath. Every time we followed our foot onto the stage we won. Our smiles could not be erased. Our enthusiasm could not be tamped. Our joy was aplenty.
Last night, during our warm-up for our graduation performance from our Advanced Improvisation class at Westside Improv, our director Jeff threw out a prompt of a jacket. We learned our fellow player has a beaver. A full-length beaver jacket in fact! Her jacket superseded stories of parkas and windbreakers; our dialogue focused on the kind of jacket used by men protecting us from a population increase.
A team name of “Beaver Fever” was born and we proved to be both eager and busy in our set last night. Sandwiched between the Jeff Ashleys and Rudy Toot, the bar was set high. I picked the right number between 1 and 10 and was deemed the feverless team leader. I introduced Beaver Fever to the audience, 1/10 of whom were my friends, and much to the chagrin of my fellow players, I told them not to expect much from us as students. Then we nailed it.
With a mascot of a flaming carp as our audience prompt, we moved through our monologue and found ourselves fishing for and flame torching carp, playing hopscotch in the form of double dutch, finding and abandoning old friends, loving Greek food and Greek men, and more. As is the case with all of Improvisation, last night was a series of moments, unscripted, DVR-less, absent a pause or rewind button. A memory is left in its wake, its existence confirmed by laughter and euphoria.
After our set, I joined the audience and sat beside my friends Grace and Eric, both of whom I met in classes at Westside. We sat through Rudy Toot and Rad Uncle. I could see my friends Kim, Elizabeth, Mark, and Kristin laughing. Those I couldn’t see I could hear. I felt blessed to share in their laughter and to witness their joy.
After a fantastic show capped off by Rad Uncle, we found ourselves back upstairs at Emmet’s where a beer and shot before the show did little to quell my nerves. Flanked by two groups, Westside and Westfield friends, my fellow players and I basked in the praise from the Westfield group. When we drove home last night, I told my friend Karin how wonderful it felt to be supported by friends from an array of life’s chapters: City News, Bridget’s elementary school, and Essencia. More important than their physical presence, I was grateful for the same thing I felt when my family was in the audience for our Introduction to Improv graduation performance. It brought me joy to hear their laughter and to see them happy.
Fred was right, it took a while for me to come down last night. It was after 1 a.m. when my eyes closed, but my mind didn’t shut down. When I woke up this morning, I recalled dreams of Improv scenes with laundry baskets filled with clean clothes, abandoned convents, wooden rocking chairs, and lots of laughter. Had you slept beside me, I’m absolutely positive you would have heard me laughing in my sleep. Fred’s warning last night immediately surfaced this morning. After feeding the dogs, I made my coffee and hurried to the keyboard. As I made my way through this post and processed last night’s accomplishments, I found myself enlightened. Today I can answer a question – without question – that nearly every person asks upon learning that I take improvisation classes at Westside.
“Why did you do it?”
Because I needed to laugh.
Now, that I have graduated from Intro and Advanced, the question shifted to:
“Are you going to continue?”
My response is, “Yes. Now I am a student in the Players Workshop.”
I’ll quickly clip the follow-up question that just popped into your head.
“Why continue, Karen?”
“Because it brings me joy.”