The Pit

Why Haven’t You Done This Yet? (Part 2)

inprovisation-party-gameIn the previous post I wrote about the first thing I learned from taking the improv level 0 class at The Peoples Improv Theater, with the wonderful instructor,  Taren Sterry. During our 4 three-hour classes, there were moments I couldn’t catch my breath I was laughing so hard. When you’re having that much fun, it’s hard to believe that you’re learning, but I certainly was. Over the next few posts I’m going to share with you what improv taught me.

2. Better writing skills.

In improv you need to know your character, his/her motivation, the setting and the relationship within seconds. Everything from your posture to the first three lines, informs the scene. You need to be clear, have an intention, but also be flexible.

During class there were so many times I thought back to my novel, realizing that my character’s motivations weren’t clear, or that I needed to come up with more mannerisms that would give the reader insight into my characters. My writing had a great focus and intention after each class.

If you’re a writer,  highly suggest taking an improv class. I’m a huge advocate for writing classes, but I also think it’s great when you can take a new approach to learning – especially an approach that is so much fun.

So there you have it, the second way you can improve from improv.  I highly recommend The Pit, and more specifically my amazing teacher, Tarren Sterry. If you end up taking a class, let them know I sent you 🙂 Stay tuned for the next skill I learned from improv.

Why Haven’t You Done This Yet? (Part 1)

Fear-of-Looking-Stupid1By nature I’m a shy person but I hate being that way, so I do things that push me out of my comfort zone. Whether it’s hosting conferences, critiquing strangers on the street, or reading my work in public, I truly believe that when I feel nervous I’m actually growing. Improv was on the top of my list of things that scared me so I knew it was only a matter of time before I took a class.

I signed up for an improv level 0 class. Not level 1 but level big-fat-0, a four-week introduction to the art of improv with no daunting performance at the end of the course like most improv classes. While there are lots of improv schools to choose from in NYC, I picked The Peoples Improv Theater, lovingly referred to as The Pit, because it has a reputation for being really fun. Our instructor, Taren Sterry, immediately turned the classroom into a goofy, safe environment, while also offering the perfect level of critic to help us improve.

I have never had so much fun with adults. During our three-hour classes, there were moments I couldn’t catch my breath I was laughing so hard. When you’re having so much fun, it’s hard to believe that you’re learning, but I certainly was. Over the next few posts I’m going to share with you what improv taught me.

  1. Better conversational skills.

A conversation is about listening and sharing. Until I took improv, I had no idea what a terrible listener I was.  People tend to listen to the first half of someone’s story and then they’re already thinking of what they are going to say next. This leads to a conversation that is pretty flat. But if you really listen to a story about someone’s Aunt Trudy, you might pick up on a detail that could trigger a much deeper conversation. “Your aunt Trudy dated a Stan from Riverdale? My uncle Stan is from Riverdale. Maybe they dated?!? Maybe we’re related!” Even though I was having a blast, I left every class with a headache because I’ve never concentrated so hard in my life. The better you listen to what people are saying the more you can work off the golden nuggets they throw out.

I was amazed at how easy it was to converse with the other students during the breaks and after class. It was because we were all using the golden rule of YES AND. This rule is all about giving the other person something to work with. You affirm what they say and you add something to it. I have a terrible habit of giving short answers when making small talk. A part of me believes that if someone is truly interested, they’ll ask me follow up questions. I don’t want to be that person who overwhelms a stranger with my entire life story (I do that with my blog, thank you very much). But here’s a good example of a conversation that was improved with improv: Someone asked me how I was doing and my instinct was to say, “tired,” but instead I said, “I’m tired because I stayed up late doing karaoke.” See! because I added that tiny bit of info, the conversation began! We got into a big long discussion about the best karaoke songs to sing and that never would have happened if I just gave a one-word answer.

So there you have it, the first way you’ll improve from improv. Everyone could benefit from taking an improv class. I highly recommend The Pit, and more specifically my amazing teacher, Tarren Sterry. If you end up taking a class, let them know I sent you 🙂 Stay tuned for the next skill I learned from improv.

Improvising a better reward system

wpid-20130603_113238.jpgLast year I wrote that if you have a long-term goal, it’s important to reward the milestones. This helps you celebrate the process and not just the outcome.

My two long-term goals are publishing a novel, and launching a career from the HeSo Project. I came up with my milestones and rewards and taped them to my desk so I can see them whenever I work.

It was really hard coming up with rewards and I found myself just listing the nicer version of everything I already own. A few months ago, I reached one of my goals (1,000 blog followers) and bought myself a pair of boots. My trip to Idaho was a reward for finishing my first draft of the novel. While I love my boots, rewarding myself with an experience that will have a long-term impact on my creativity was much more …well…rewarding.

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As I reach another goal (2,000 followers!), I decided to cross out all the materialistic rewards and replace them with fun experiences I’ve always wanted to try.

My husband took an improv class at The Pit last year and he had so much fun. I’ve always wanted to take an improv classes but I used money as an excuse not to do it, when the real reason was I was an intimidated by it. Well I already have a bunch of purses, so I crossed that off and signed up for a four week improv class!

I’m a little nervous, but I can’t wait to share with you all the amazing lessons of improv.

By the way, if you’ve never read this short little gem, Improv Wisdom: Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up, I’d highly recommend it.