Friday, January 22, 2010

Thank you for the Improv.

It's been percolating in my mind for the last couple of months that I owe Robin Armstrong an enormous THANK YOU! for letting me be part of the Roustabouts. It was an improvisation group that she put together, in Natchitoches, LA, oh so many years ago.

So why, after 14 years, would an expression of gratitude be on my mind NOW?

Clear as a bell, I can remember doing a rehearsal, and she stopped me to explain that good improvisation is about the "Yes, and", meaning, accepting the idea that someone presents, and rolling with it; Bad improv is "No, but". Basically, it's the ability to take what you're given, and make more with it.

I don't know if you've noticed, but watch pretty much ANY action movie/ thriller/ etc. And what separates the leader/ the main character/ the ones who live from everyone else is their ability to improvise. They take what is available and do the unexpected with it. I'd provide examples, but if you actually think about it a moment, I don't need to. (:

"But that's just in the movies," you counter. Okay-- then how about Survival experts. Again, there are plenty of television shows following them around-- but actually LISTEN to them. The difference between alive and dead is 1) staying calm and thinking and 2) improvising with what you have.

Okay, so my chances of needing those skills as a suburban-ish dweller are pretty unlikely.

But it turns out there are real life chances for improvisation all the time: Making up stories for my kids, or playing with them; Reveling in our imaginations. Or last semester as I was teaching my lesson plan-- and realized I could incorporate the cultural display they had just been to into my lesson to give them yet another way to connect with it. Or in the last week as I'm working on my soapstone sculpture-- I'm learning about the stone as I go, and the idea I had when I began is still -basically- there-- but it's grown into more. I almost never follow a cooking recipe exactly-- and anyone who's ever seen my 'original' recipes can attest there aren't many real measurements in them-- just guidelines.

Improvisation gives you the ability to make flash decisions, to assess the current situation, and make the most of it-- usually in very positive, creative ways. And Robin, I wanted to say Thank You, for helping me develop that skill.

The friends, laughter, and experiences are also all fondly remembered (;

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