Improv Again


I’m young, on a bare stage with two chairs, a woman named Tina, and somebody in the darkness beyond the spotlight shouts out, “A monkey. A pirate’s treasure map. And a diamond!” And right then, that millisecond, is when Tina and I go to work creating—what others before us have described as “something wonderful right away.” At 25, I had no idea that enrolling in Jo Forsberg’s “Player’s Workshop of The Second City” meant I’d be standing in the shadows of giants. Like the guy Forsberg hired to play piano at a Children’s Theater Workshop, David Mamet. Or a really funny guy from the suburb of Wilmette, Bill Murray, who went on to do OK.

Improvisation for the theater is the only art form that was born and raised in Chicago. The history is deep and rich, traceable back to a people whose names you’d probably not remember: Viola Spolin, Neva Boyd. Julia Lathrop, and on through Paul Sills, Del Close, Charna Halpern, Jo Forsberg and many others. All building a discipline, a training curriculum, quality work, a business and legacy.

Looking back, Improv is the absolute best training I’ve ever had. Which is what makes it so enriching to be able to go back and do it again. With a sparkling cadre of players, a teacher who has the history at Second City, the wisdom of the streets and that rare gift of knowing how make learning come alive, I’ve completed five weekly sessions and will be starting up again soon.

Improv again after all these years makes me feel like the tin man. My creaking and squeaking improv energy put on the back shelf of my mind. The classes leave me drained. That good kind of drained. Stopping that reaching for something wonderful right away. And just letting it come.
Silly stuff that makes people laugh. Letting it come.

Scene!

5 Responses to “Improv Again”

  1. Tom Cordle Says:

    Better to be scene and heard – sorry, I can’t resist a bad pun. As for being drained, my son was complaining about being exhausted after a visit from a couple of his buddies. My son is anorexic, and he doesn’t get much company these days. I pointed out to him that mental exhaustion can be much more taxing than physical exhaustion. I’ve fronted most of the bands I’ve ever been in, and I can tell you fronting a band is more mentally exhausting than you can imagine – you’re picking the next song while playing the present one, and trying to think of something funny to say between songs – all the while trying to read the audience. Whew– I’m tired just remembering!

  2. Helen Gagel Says:

    Good for you!

  3. Ted Schneider Says:

    Roger,
    Improv is good all around fun and training for life. It sparks the imagination and it is a skill that can be used at work, during your day to day and with friends and family. I hope you continue to practice and take classes because one is never too old to stretch physically or mentally (OK maybe the physical stretching does reach a limit at a certain age).

  4. Carol Steinbrecher Says:

    What fun! I want to play along! A writer, Chicago, a vivid imagination…..YOU! Always creating something wonderful!! Enjoy!!!

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