As someone who does their best to avoid the spotlight in most instances, you could say I was less than thrilled when Dad’s Garage, an Atlanta based improv theater offering classes, workshops and shows, showed up in one of my college classes. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been to my fair share of improv shows and I’m definitely a fan of the witty, comedic actors and actresses that manage to keep me on my toes throughout the entire show. In fact, that might be the reason I’ve appreciated improv so much in the past: I’m not the one on stage.
So when it occurred to me that I was going to have to try my hand at not only being funny, but doing it without a script, I was intimidated. However, as we learned during the class, approaching improv with this kind of mindset can actually make it a lot harder than it needs to be.
After Dad’s Garage performed a few short improv exercises for us, it was our turn to try one out. The exercise involved us going around in a circle and taking turns saying only one word at a time. The goal was to create an entire story by the time everyone had contributed a word. Now, you may be thinking, “how difficult can coming up with one word be?” Well, finding one word to fit into the context of a story that is constantly changing can be harder than you may think.
After a few stories that somehow always found their way back to monsters, aliens or any non-human characters, we started to get the gist of things. By the end of the lesson, this simple exercise had taught us some foundational principles of improv. Perhaps the most important being not to approach improv with any preconceived notions. Being nervous about what the outcome may be or trying to force a joke to fit into a show is pointless, because you’ll never be able to prepare for the sudden, unexpected turns a story may take.
I also learned that not everyone can deliver the punch line of a joke. It takes the effort of an entire improv team and contributing to that effort can look as simple as chiming in an “and, the, but or so” to keep the story progressing. Sure, those words may not have been what everyone remembered of our story, but we wouldn’t have had a story at all without them.
Overall, this experience gave me a greater appreciation and understanding of improv as a form of art that takes hard work and dedication of the entire team to perfect. While I’ll still say you shouldn’t expect to ever see me step foot on an improv stage, you can expect to see me in the crowds of more improv shows (who knows, maybe even at Dad’s Garage).
Check out upcoming shows and classes at Dad’s Garage: https://www.dadsgarage.com/