Finding Joy Through Improv

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 Her jacket superseded stories of parkas and windbreakers; our dialogue focused on the kind of jacket used by men protecting us from a population increase.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.”

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26 Thoughts

  1. A perfect ending with a lot of application. Joy … that’s a powerful three-letter word. You like doing improve and you find it in your personality, so you pursued learning, and now see the need for more learning. After all, the more one learns, the more they discover how much more there is to learn! Cheers to your efforts and be taking part in something that gives you joy!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kudos to you, Karen! You needed to laugh and you found a way to ensure that you do. My question would be why NOT continue?
    Laugh on, Karen and not only will it bring you joy, you will share that with others.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah!!
        Monday it is, the sun is shining very brightly, the snow is melting… and I cannot, CANNOT believe they are calling for a snowstorm 4-5-6 April. I am not going to buy into it until we are closer to the date. But still.
        I’m finally writing MY Circus/monkeys post… 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This is sensational!
    It reminds me of a friend I knew who did theater for local productions. He was living his life with theater as a “side”, but one to which he vowed to never leave. And I asked him why. What drew him to it. He said that he was in love with the connection you make with complete strangers.
    You have conveyed that sentiment here and so much more, perfectly, I might add.
    Love this.

    Peace and improv

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I enjoyed your post, felt your happy reaching across the skies and it made me smile. I have joined an improv workshop, from never having in my mind a thought to step foot on a stage. With a singing voice that rips eardrums apart and a sense of space that has no sense at all. I now take part in three hour slot at our local theatre, where mime and body language and childish freeform playing is encouraged. I write which means I bringvan already vivid imagination to the group. We laugh so much my face aches for ages after, they are putting on a second and third one in the Autumn and winter because it has been so successfully received. If I can get a modicum of what you describe I will be happy.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You must feel so alive doing improv! Living in the moment, whatever it may be, and just experiencing it for what it is. I know for me that when I’m vulnerable, courageous, and living in the moment, life is pretty amazing. I can’t do it all the time, but when I need to get out of my head I find something to do that requires being right there in the moment. Thanks for this post!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Being cathartic is a state of being that I am intimately familiar with. I will be writing a new blog entry soon entitled: Taming your Amygdala….or How to Tame Your Amygdala. Something like that.

        Liked by 1 person

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