He introduced himself as Stanley. In a commanding but calm voice, he said, “Good afternoon, welcome to this lovely Theatre and my series of workshops.” He had a warm open face which put us at ease. “What is Improvisation?” he said as walked with purpose around the circle of seated newcomers, he looked encouragingly, hopefully; from face to face. “Anybody,” A lady raised her hand and in her lilting southern Irish accent, she softly crooned; “Good afternoon, my name is Fiona, I think the answer may be … Improving yourself?” She delivered her statement without flinching and punctuated it with a sharp nod. The silence filled the room and like all good teachers of improv should, Stanley smiled. He tilted his head, squinted hard and began a long slow nod, “Yeeesss, improving your acceptance of offers, never saying no, or shutting an offer down,” he replied. Now, we were all frowning, looking from Fiona to Stanley and back. From my position today with minimal knowledge on board and one ten week course completed; I know exactly what he meant … *claps hands* “Bravo for not wimping out of the offer Stanley.”
Delivering open interesting statements, open questions or offers, and continuing with interesting responses, ones that can be grown into even more elaborate but random stories; that is how to improvise. Learning spontaneity, how to turn off the internal policeman is necessary and we are required to do so to proceed.
On to our first icebreaker. We were to choose a person, preferably one you didn’t know before, link arms with them and walk quietly around the room, out on the balcony and down to the garden. Stanley instructed us to chat as if long-term friends having a stroll, having a chinwag. On the way try to find things out about each other. For me taking a stranger by the arm was huge. We ‘Brits’ don’t encroach, as a rule, we give other human beings personal space. It simply isn’t done. Lesson learned! How to relax and turn off the voice / internal policeman, until it is no longer telling you ‘you can’t do that, adults should never.’ Eventually (minutes later) we all get into a large circle and a pair at a time steped forward. One in the middle listening, her partner commentating, recalling the others words. She or he; then swapped places. This was repeated for all of us. When, or if, you froze and invariably you did, you most likely said “I am afraid I can not remember your son’s name,” or Job or something to of that effect. Stanley would interject with ‘yes you do’ and on one such occasion he said, ‘you met her at the courthouse.’ He was trying to remind us; it is improv. Someone … (Lovely Fiona) said, ‘I’ve never been in a court in my life,’ while stabbing out the four stations of the cross. Stanley, was nodding enthusiastically when he replied … ‘You have, when you were arrested for breaking that window.’ The penny dropped. One by one the circle got it, slow nods and smiles as the realisation hit home. All except for poor Fiona and her partner, Gretchen, a nicely spoken octogenarian who was mortified by the thought. She looked on; horrified, hand to mouth, eyes poking so far out that I thought surely they would roll across the floor at any moment. Her jaw repeatedly opened and shut as she trembled and took her seat. With lesson one now learned, we moved on. What you don’t know you can make up, and nobody cares. And so the improv classes began with great enjoyment.
One course down and we broke for Summer. I couldn’t believe how much I missed it.
During the break kate, my long-term friend and improv buddy continued to improv with me. We’d walk her dogs Chester, a white westie and Rosie, a long-haired Dach Russel (Dachshund cross, wirehaired Jack Russel) Three times a week. At the crack of dawn, we’d take them; for forest walks, in the grounds of national trust houses or vast acres of Suffolk countryside. Our attempt to keep a totally unplanned story going for the duration of a 4,6 or seven-mile walk, was a challenge. Especially when interspersed with songs, rhymes and basic silly bugger stuff. All the while chasing down two hounds. I am sure they were that embarrassed to be seen with us as they took off at every opportunity … so as not to be associated with the two crazies behind.
One evening, after a laughter-filled long walk; The Husband, (mine) Kate and I went together to a night of Art. The Gallery opened and Champagne was served in long-stemmed glasses. Along they came with delicacies on guilt trays. Parcels of sumptuousness clutched by leggy teenagers earning a crust. We floated about in our best bibs and hairdos, taking in the sculptures and paintings. There were shelves of objet d’art separating sections. Large figures and twisted shafts of metal that graced the lawns. Purses clicked and secret bids were happening around us, when Kate and I, in unison laughed out loud. Not a tinkling notatious sound but a guffawing that had us clenching our stomachs and cheeks. My nose stung as fizz escaped my left nostril; when we overheard a conversation. A conversation not aimed at us, a private overhearing of what can only be described as gossip. This was what made us laugh …
An elegantly clad forty-something lady was (supposedly) quietly imparting to another female. “I was timing my run for the cross country next week, my pace was good. I took the route behind the lake when I heard and saw the most extraordinary thing.” Her friend leaned in and we shuffled closer, after all, it’s not every day you are handed a wonderful opportunity of people watching and listening. “I heard the most awful caterwauling coming across the lake.” She looked (for effect) to her acquaintance “Really, what was it?” She said while circling her manicured hand at shoulder height towards another waiter. After gorging and gulping several salmon and caviar morsels and coiffing Champagne they moved on to view some pastels; contemporary scenes. We gracefully followed suit eager for the conversation to continue. Meanwhile, Kate’s pal, who had a piece of art in the exhibition and had put us on the guest list was busy being too self-important to join us. In retrospect, I am pleased she didn’t as air-kissing people you not only invite but have known for years is not polite. It also left us a little annoyed and possibly (my husband’s words) looking for mischief.
Staying close to the two women was easy, we just shuffled a few steps and feigned being knowledgeable. Drawing attention to an exhibit called Rust never dies. I said in a pretentious voice whilst gesticulating wildly. “This shovel, made in a modern Baroque style, lace cut, rusted and oiled is a Denice Bizot, the artist uses a plasma torch to burn the pattern into the metal. (Her work can be found HERE)
I can surprise myself at times *sniffs* But other times … I thank Pinterest, Google and Wikipedia for being so handy. Kate, though interested in my observations was sure we’d never hear the end of the runner’s story if we stopped where we were so moved on. At that moment the Husband appeared, pointed out some art he liked, after a chat and my nod of approval was given he retreated to the sealed bids table. Luckily we have both similar tastes.
I looked around to see where Kate was. I found her, she was pointing into her raised palm and mouthing maniacally, quick, quick. Just as I got there, I saw the runner and her friend laughing behind Kate. I was in time to hear her say “Singing they were, both of them, laughing like banshees. Really you had to be there to believe how bad it was. Rufus was going to jump in if I hadn’t caught hold … well, he is a wolfhound you know.” She shook her head as Kate spluttered. It happened so quickly, there was no stopping her. I nudged and tugged her hand but she turned to face them. “Excuse me, I couldn’t help but overhear, were you running in Ickworth park when you heard them?” Both ladies stepped back, the runner said “Pardon” and twiddled the Pearl strand at her throat. “It’s just that we were there this morning” Kate beamed. “Yes yes … did you hear them too.” She placed a palm on Kate’s sleeve while nodding waiting for a response. I felt myself get warm, my clammy hands dropped to my side and I cringed. “It was us” frantically she waved a finger too and fro from me to her. I turned up my mouth and an involuntary nervous cackle left my throat. Kate joined in with gusto. both women grinned with staring eyes from her to me then back to each other. “Well, what are the chances,” said runner “Of you being here, now, while we were mentioning it.” I watched the runner colour as she wondered what we had overheard. Here we were, improvising, in a gallery, without a class or Stanley beside us … Playing like children.
Thank you Lorna #Ginspiration for the prompt. People Watching you or you people watching. Press HERE to join in or have a good read. Media pictures were from Pixabay.com with exception of the shovel not to be used without credit or permission all copyright of the shovel is owned by Denice Bizot
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Have you ever tried Improv? Or have I peaked your interest? leave me your answers and comments It is so good to talk.