Last week I took part in a musical improv scene in which my friends A and L were the protagonists. The premise of the scene was that they had murdered A's husband (played by J) to clear the way so they could get married. J's body was sprawled on the floor, and it was creeping A out, so L called offstage for the butler (played by me) to "get rid of this mess, will you?" I answered, "My pleasure, sir," and went to drag J offstage.
J is a slender young woman (we are fairly gender fluid in our role playing), so I thought this would be a simple task, but in the event I couldn't budge her. I tried pulling her by the legs, then by the arms, then sort of rolling her, but nothing worked, and after a few minutes we were both working so hard to hold down laughter that we were weak.
I was worried that I was never going to get her offstage, and in the meantime A and L were trying to go on with their scene, but we were distracting, and we were several minutes into the scene with no song. Finally I whispered for J to help me, and she sort of inched her way offstage while I pretended to pull her, and the protagonists went on with their scene.
Our note at the end was exactly the opposite of what I thought it was going to be. Both our teacher and our musical director said emphatically that if anything like that ever happens again, J must NOT help me, because the scene was hilarious—A and L with their romantic, dramatic dialogue on one side of the stage, and me increasingly desperate to dispose of the body on the other.
I have been thinking about this, and about how, increasingly, becoming "good" at improv has come to seem less about learning sophisticated techniques, as important as those are, and more about responding in an authentic, unguarded way to what is actually happening.
I am writing this on my birthday, a time when I tend to reflect on the events of the previous years. Usually my nostalgia is mixed with regret for past mistakes. This year I am trying to look on those "mistakes" as gifts as well—opportunities I may not have recognized at the time, but which may have borne unexpected and delicious fruit.
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