Monday, August 12, 2013

I can do this...

 but first I need to “get out of my head.”

About a month ago I was given an opportunity through a casual friend I met at Faffcon 3 in Harrisburg, PA. Faffcon is a gathering a of voice actors and actresses who assemble to work on professional improvement through a series of non-conference type workshops. Peter Kappesser, known by his voiceover stage name Peter Katt, invited me to check out Salt City Improv's introductory class. Peter told me that he decided to take the class and others offered, extolling the benefits of improv to a voice actor. He liked it so much that he joined the troupe and regularly performs on stage at the Syracuse based theater. I was hesitant, but since others have also suggested improv's benefits I decided to take the intro class which lead to my enrollment in a six week basic improv series with instructor Jeff Kinsler. I don't think Jeff realized what a challenge I would be when he accepted me as student of improv.

Since I'm rapidly approaching the mid-way point in the six week class, I decided to describe my experience to-date, sharing what I have learned and the challenges ahead for a sixty-six year old who is still stuck in his head.

Gems I have learned

  1. Improv is not as easy as it looks.
  2. “Yes, and” are two very powerful words.
  3. Being a “good listener” is crucial to improv and life for that matter..
  4. It's not about me, it's about the team.
  5. Over-thinking is learned and they say it can be “un-learned.”.
I want start with numbers one, four, and five. In life, I tend to carefully think out what I want to say and how to say it so as not to offend or be singled out. That's what I call the “political science” approach. I am constantly over-thinking and analyzing. I have realized it's a conditioned approach I have acquired through life and through past jobs where I had to think and speak that way. I don't think I was this way when I was younger or even in my early days of broadcasting when I was a live, outspoken performer on the radio. As I look back, I see that improv was part of what I did. Young people have not learned to put that guard up yet, which makes it easier for them to do improv. Their imagination flows freely. I keep telling myself (and so does instructor Jeff) that I need to “get out of my head.” To date I haven't mastered it. I'm wondering if I ever will. I think it also has a lot to do with being part of team, something that's pretty foreign to me, having never been interested in or rarely participated in a team sport. Jeff says that the mind can only think about one thing at a time and that if I focus my mind on another activity, such as making silly movements or gestures that the words will come freely. It's easy for him to say. They don't. If I don't think, the words don't even seem to come out.

Numbers two and three are lessons I will take from improv and they will be forever part of my life, not just during class. The home work assignment from an early class was to utilize the “yes, and” technique in real life situations. Believe me. They are very powerful. In a conversation, you “yes” or acknowledge and accept what the other person has said and then you add to it. “Yes, and let me add to that by saying...” is more powerful than “Yes, but I like green better than blue.” “Yes, but” kills a conversation. “Yes, and” builds a conversation. If you haven't listened clearly, you can't very well do “Yes, and.” Yes and I have heard and accept what you said and add to that by saying...

So, the improv experience has already given me tools I can use. Time will tell if I will ever be able to “get out of my head.” 

 To be continued...


  1. "Yes, and..." has been my mantra since January of this year. It is obvious that you cannot spell improve without improv being a significant part of the word. Improv may be a challenge, but it's one of those challenges that you love to keep coming back to. The more frustrating something is, the more we would like to master it (well, some of us).

    It's been fun to chronicle my improv journey in several of my blog posts, which--in retrospect--has consumed well over half the posts this year.

    Keep up the good work!

    - Chris Malone


    1. Thanks Chris. It's an interesting experience and the lessons learned to date are powerful.

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