Many people are terrified of improvised theatre because you are asked to get on stage with other improvisers, with no script and you have no idea what will happen next. It’s scary!
Being an expat is pretty similar to performing in an improv show. You are in a completely new environment, new characters, new language and you have no idea what will happen next. It’s scary and exciting. It is the experience that I am in right now, as I am sure are many of you. I have personally seen how improv has positively affected so many people’s lives and made the experience of living abroad a lot more fun. Let me give you four ways improv can improve your life.
If you have never seen an improv show before, it basically consists of a group of actors who create theatre with no script. Sometimes we even create very long stories that can last two acts. In order to do this we have to be great at collaborating. Improv teaches you how to collaborate, and saying “yes” is the engine that makes it go. When two people are playing a scene it is very hard to create anything when you say no to each other’s ideas. When you say yes and accept each other’s ideas scenes take off. The work becomes effortless and exhilarating.
However, the older we get the more we learn how to say no and make our lives very comfortable. By saying yes we open ourselves up to new possibilities. Keith Johnstone, who is one of the founders of improv says,
“There are people who prefer to say ‘yes’ and there are people who prefer to say ‘no’. Those who say ‘yes’ are rewarded by the adventures they have. Those who say ‘no’ are rewarded by the safety they attain.”
If you notice yourself suffering a bit in Sweden chances are you are resisting life here. I catch myself doing it all the time. However, when I say yes to Sweden, life flows. Yes-And isn’t just an improv tool, but it becomes a way of life.
Improv is like a team sport. It is 100% about the group, and not about “me”. No matter what level of improv you are in chemistry is extremely important. You best work comes out when you are with a group of people that trust and support each other. A lot of class time is devoted to building group dynamics and creating an environment where people feel safe to go outside their comfort zones and express themselves.
Being abroad can be a lonely experience sometimes, and I have seen so many people build life-long friendships that were cultivated through improv. It is a great way of building a community of people who are growing together.
When I was adapting to Sweden I could sometimes feel like it was easy to lose myself. My voice. My core being. Conforming to new cultural guidelines and a new language it didn’t feel easy to be myself. Improv encourages you to be yourself to the fullest. It provides a space where you can really explore who you are and help you find your voice. Chances are you will surprise yourself every class and be amazed by what you are capable of. It is a fantastic release for anyone adapting to life here.
Mistakes are gifts
This is my absolute favourite fundamental of improv. Mistakes are gifts. Not problems, but opportunities. I am not someone who enjoys failing, but I have learned to, and it has changed my life. In improv we embrace failure. Once you realize that mistakes are gifts and bring enthusiasm to failure instead of shame or disappointment the feeling of fear diminishes. This is a huge benefit when learning a new language. You make mistakes all the time, but with a different mind set. Before you know it those mistakes will lead to long conversations in Swedish, and you will yes-and your way into a new adventure!
Sign up for a class at IT’S, International Theater Stockholm, and be a part of one the most fun and vibrant international communities on earth. http://internationaltheater.se/
Written by Guest Contributor, Josh Lenn, Artistic Director International Theater Stockholm (IT’S)