How to Improve at IMPROV (and Life)

I organized my first official drama event last night here in Jeddah–A Night of IMPROV.

I emceed the event where five members of my new drama group – The Sun & Sand Players – took the floor for a crazy night of improvisation.

A small but enthusiastic group participated, and we pulled in a slight profit to help fund our first real show in January.  Overall, it was a fun night.

The IMPROV performers are knew to the genre. They did a fantastic job – especially when taking into account the few opportunities that they’ve had to perform IMPROV, let alone IMPROV in front of an audience.

There were tense moments when their brains didn’t respond quickly enough, and they were flat-footed, unable to make that leap to the center of the floor to give a response. But that is normal. Natural, really. It’s to be expected no matter what you’re working on. The only way to improve IMPROV is to do it. Try. Jump in. Use the impulses. Feel the nerves in the gut and go for it. Mouth blazing, with little regard for self-censorship or self-consciousness. And as an actor practices, puts herself out there, let’s himself be put into different situations, he or she will improve. It’s a process. Sometimes a slow-moving one. But a process none-the-less.

It’s no different with my writing. It’s no different with life. If you have a goal, if you follow a passion, if you want to get better at something, put yourself out there. Play the fool for once, follow your pride, and jump right back in.

As an IMPROV actor, you might say something that people don’t laugh at. That can be painful. As a writer, I might write a cringe-worthy cliche that unleashes a whole slew of down votes. I won’t improve if I don’t learn to shake it off, learn from the misstep, laugh at myself, and move on.

This is the way life works. You will only attain that which you stubbornly shoot for. You’ll never hit the stars if your standing inside a barn. You’ll never cross the ocean if you don’t get into the vessel. You’ll … yeah, there’s all kinds of other corny saying I could add here, but you know the drill. You only improve at things which you are willing to work at, continuously, religiously, passionately.

That’s the only way you’ll improve at IMPROV, or at life in general.

I’ve got some writing to do.

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About that ocean

This afternoon, I stood on the embankment looking out over the sea. Two individuals were talking, facing away from the expanse. The expanse which seems to widen minds and open the world to possibilities.

At that moment, standing on the bank in Penang, I felt an overwhelming sense that the world was so much bigger than it was when I was in high school, growing up in the slow-paced countryside of Butler County, PA.

The ocean makes me think I know more about life, about people, about cultures, about history than some others who haven’t been as fortunate to travel like I have. But whether I actually know more or not, I don’t know.

But my perspectives have so shifted that the tiny plot of land I knew as a kid, the one I hold dear to my heart, seems like a speck in time and a galaxy away from the open air breeze off the sea.

They are each different parts of me, and each part envies the other in ways that are not so obvious. Having the ocean view makes me understand how to put my upbringing into proper perspective. Having the ocean view makes me understand how different my children will be from me. Having the ocean view makes me glad that at one time I didn’t have the ocean view.

We all need perspective. The more, the better.

That’s all I have to say about that ocean.