Last week, I made the jump from improv one to level two, and it definitely felt like the transition from kindergarten to first grade. Not that I actually remember that specific experience (other than the sudden absence of hour-long naps), but I do know the difference between playing around and getting serious.
As many of you know, I absolutely adored my level one imrov course. It was my favorite part of the week, which says a lot because I also love my job and coworkers. There were only 12 people in the class, so it was a small, tight knit group, and we hung out after each session, usually spending hours at the nearest pizza shop to chat about whatever. I became close with everyone, so I was really sad to learn that none of them would be going onto improv two with me. Thankfully my friend Sophia hopped on board and snatched the last slot right before it was too late, but my new class is mostly made up of people from another level one class.
Half of the people knew each other before level two, and they’re all aware that this puts everyone else in an odd place. Sophia and I know each other personally and in improv world, but we’re still unfamiliar with the way the others work and operate. I don’t know their character tendencies, individual shticks, or sense of humor, so I walk into scenes with them not knowing what I’m going to get. That said, I think they’re all awesome so far, and I enjoyed chatting with them after class on Thursday.
One of the guys is French and told me that he and the other improv level one folks from the same class want to integrate me and the “outsiders,” so to speak, and help us feel like we’re part of the group. It’ll be like we were all in the first level one class together, right? I’ll fully warm up to everyone soon, especially since I already think they’re terrific and approachable, but I’d be lying if I said I don’t miss my own improv level one gang.
I choked up about it at one point on Thursday night, perhaps because improv level one was our foundation, and it also went by really quickly. We were there for each other from the very beginning and evolved as a unit, and now most of us have to continue the improv journey at different paces. Some of my level one buddies will be taking level two in the fall, but Sophia and I wanted to jump right into it so as not to forget everything we’d learned in level one. I’ve gotta say, I’m so glad I made the decision to keep going. The Magnet is truly my favorite place in NYC, and whenever I’m there, I feel like I’m at summer camp — except only with campers I like.
Everyone has an interesting story and life outside of class, and it’s kind of nice to come together once or twice a week to not be ourselves for a little bit. I love my life, but also decided a while ago that I wasn’t going to get my fulfillment solely out of work anymore. We all know writing is my whole world, and nothing is going to change that, but being a one-trick pony just isn’t an awesome or fun look for me these days. I realized this after the Boston bombing, which showed me just how emotionally taxing and exhausting my industry can be. I needed an outlet that would make me happy and not simply serve as a way for me to get stuff off my chest. Venting in my blog and diary doesn’t always make me feel better. It can put me in a worse mood, but improv makes me smile and laugh every single time I watch or perform it. I’ve never stopped appreciating theater, and who knows, maybe I can make it more than a hobby a few years down the road. That’s a discussion for another time, though, because I’m just having fun right now, and I may as well indulge the honeymoon stage while it lasts, right?
Improv is basically the best thing that has ever happened to me — at least in my young adult life, and I can’t tell you how amazing it feels to have something more than work to get excited about and work towards. It also exposes me to another world of creative and magical people, and I honestly wonder what I’ve been doing all this time without some of them, like Sophia, who I’m convinced has the personality and talent to become the next Tina Fey. So even though level two doesn’t have the Barney “I love you, you love me” feel of level one, I’m learning a ton, and I really appreciate that my new instructor laid out his expectations immediately. It’s really helpful to know exactly what the teacher wants. I can tell he’s really going to push and grow us over the next eight weeks. I have a feeling I’m going to be exposed to more than I can process each week. Probably a good thing, right?
That’s why it’s kind of relaxing to go see shows at the theater. This past week, the performers were challenged to do a scene in haiku, using five syllables and then seven syllables onstage. They were visibly nervous about the task. I truly thought it couldn’t be done, but the ladies proved me wrong and pulled it off like pros. It was not only a valuable learning experience for them, but for me, as I had the chance to see how expert improvisers handled a seemingly impossible set of rules. When they didn’t speak, they just took advantage of the scene, as my teacher Chet frequently told us to do.
“When you’re stuck or unsure of how to move forward, just use the environment and play with your invisible props,” she said, and that’s what they did. They had an extreme example of a tough scenario, but seeing them push through it was very beneficial and educational. Though I often see shows for entertainment, I also never stop studying the performers, and luckily for me, they’re the best I could learn from.
I’ll have my “second day of school” later this week, but as improv level one flew by, so will this class — and then I’ll have another group of people to say goodbye to. I’ll miss them when we have to part ways and “graduate” again, I know it 🙂