First day of improv classes was like the first day of school…only way better

The other day, one of my friends pointed out that I don’t seem to enjoy free time. That’s certainly accurate: when I don’t have a ton planned, I just engage in solo Netflix marathons and refuse to wear pants. So, on my one day off every week, I’m taking an improv class downtown. I was really into acting until college, when I decided to fully invest myself in writing (which will always be number one in my life), but I do miss performing and have a strong appreciation for entertainers, so I hope something substantial becomes of this “newfound” interest.

My first day was today, and boy, did it feel like the first day of school at first. I walked into the wrong room, where everyone knew each other, and I realized I forgot a notebook, which I didn’t end up needing anyway. As to be expected, improv is hands on. There’s no note-taking involved in the learning process. It’s actually the exact opposite of my other trade, in which writing is everything. The contrast is stark.

I’ll admit I was a little nervous for the first two exercises, but within fifteen minutes, I was really comfortable with everyone in the room. It’s a supportive and fun group, and we all took to each other immediately. I have a ton to learn about comedy and making up storylines on my feet, and that’s why I’m going to see many comedy shows and watch lots of TV during this 8-week course. As I said before, I consider myself to be a blank slate at this point. I’ve been out of the acting game for almost seven years, so not only are my skills rusty, but obsolete and quite possibly useless. I’m going into this with an open mind and a willingness to be taught. This isn’t writing, with which I’m almost too comfortable. This is a challenge, if anything because I’ve shut myself off to everything aside from media, journalism, and writing for many years. But I’m going to nail this. It just won’t be for a while.

After class, a bunch of us went down to a pizza place in Chelsea to get to know each other outside the classroom environment. I know I keep saying it was like the first day of school, but here’s how it differed from that universal, perhaps unforgettable experience: we’re all strangers. On the first day of school as a kid, you return with all the same people you’ve grown up with and known for many years. You know who they all are, and besides looking at them for a few extra moments to see how they’ve changed over the summer, you don’t spend much extra time on them.

None of know us each other in this course. Rather than ask questions like, “how was your summer?”, we ask, “what’s your story? Why are you here today? What made you want to take improve classes? What do you do?”

We’re not just students in a theater course. We have lives outside this workshop, and it’s up to us how invested we want to be in this craft. I only have to commit to one class a week, but I’m going to see as many shows as I can, because I can say with certainty that this is something I’d like to be good at. I should have revisited this in college, but I’m still young, and boy, am I in the right part of the country for an artistic outlet like this. I’m thrilled to keep going. Just promise you won’t laugh in my face if I totally screw up one day. It’s bound to happen, and it has happened with writing too. I’ll be fine, though. It just feels so good to play around onstage again.

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