Jean: Improv helped me discover a spark that I didn’t experience anywhere else.

1. When did you first discover your love for impov?

I was thumbing through a brochure of classes at the local performing arts center, and when I saw a class for improv my entire gut exploded into a giddiness that I knew I had to pay attention to. When I found out that we would have public performance at the end of the 10-week class I almost quit, but I walked through my fear and it was a wonderful experience to be supported by my fellow improvisers,  to have fun and play,  and hear the laughter of the audience. But, it really took me awhile to discover my true love for it; I enjoyed it and had fun, but it scared me too, and there were times when it wasn’t fun. As much as it scared me and the few negative experiences I kept going back. I once spent a year driving 180 miles once a week to take classes because there were not any that were close by. There were times for various reasons that I couldn’t take classes, but I kept going back when I could; I was discovering a spark that I didn’t experience anywhere else.

2.    Take us through the mental and physical process of improvisation.

Improv is about showing up – being present, collaboration, and being truthful in the moment.

People often think that improv is stand up and being funny, but it’s not, it’s collaboration and honesty. Improvisation is really all about being in the now, the present moment, being fully in your body and listening with all your senses to the other. It’s also about letting go of the filter of believing that we need to be perfect, or it’s not okay to make mistakes. Truth is you have to allow yourself to risk failing, only then can real creativity emerge.  I have spent a lot of years studying mindfulness through yoga, and meditation, but for me improv is mindfulness in action, it is a great way to practice mindfulness. It’s about being present enough to hear another’s’ offer and then being able to respond to that offer and build on it.

We spend a good part of our day improvising, all of our conversations are improvised, but often we are up in our heads thinking about or trying to control how something will turn out. Improv teaches in a very real hands on way the beauty of getting out of your head, being present in the moment, listening to the other, knowing what to say yes to, taking risks and walking through the fear. When that is done real magic happens. 


3.    Would you say that X effects your stance on life in a broader sense, if so, how?

Absolutely; I am much more willing to take healthy good risks that positively impact my life. I find it easier to walk through my fear. In the beginning I really saw how my fear and the chatter in my head would get in the way of me having a good scene. I was so afraid that I would do it wrong, that I would fail. When I’m up in my head thinking about what to say, I’m not fully present to the others on stage and so I will miss wonderful opportunities. When I’m doing this I’m not trusting my partner, or the process. The same is true in life. Often we are so busy trying to figure things out, or planning out what we are going to say, that we aren’t paying attention to what the other is really saying and miss important opportunities. Or maybe “the universe” is offering us a gift in the moment, but we don’t see it because we are too busy trying to figure things out, or fear is holding us back from embracing the present moment. We have this idea of the way things are supposed to be and so we fight against what is. Doing improv you really get to see how this all plays out. So for me personally, I am much more aware of when I’ve jumped into a place of trying to figure things out, or not present in the moment, or I’m operating out of fear; it’s only when I’m aware of it that I can change it.

4.    If you could share one thing with someone who is struggling to "surrender" to a practice that brings them joy/inner peace, what would that be?  

Baby steps and play; “surrendering” to practices that bring me joy/inner peace has been a process. It has been scary to surrender to that energy because I didn’t know where it would take me, or what it will ask of me. I was taught to buckle down, work hard, figure it out, have a plan and then I would have success. Truth is, I have not found success that way. The more I surrender to those practices that bring me joy and inner peace the more I am discovering success. But I also need to accept and hold space for those times when I feel resistance and fear. Generally, I want to ignore them or push through them. But when I finally stop and get present with them honor that truth in the moment I can allow the hidden gift to emerge.