Class: Being Yourself
“There will be times in this class where you will feel uncomfortable”
I was somewhat hesitant about teaching this, a class that I’d experimented with in a drop in, as it had turned pretty intense at that time and the performance benefits aren’t immediately obvious. It involves some introspection and some hardcore Meisner and in the end some emotional exposure. I was, I admit, a little concerned that I would put a roomful of students off of me for the week. Our residential students are hardier than I give them credit for, however, and they went with me with enthusiasm and honesty and I utterly applaud them for that.
I will, fairly frequently, experiment with an exercise I’ve adapted or created in the moment and one such exercise turned into gold before our eyes. I ended the class with each student sitting in a chair in front of the “audience” simply being. No character, no suggestion, no artifice, just simply sitting there, honestly reacting to the, presumably alien, situation they had been placed in for 60 seconds.
I will not claim that I’m the first person to independently choose to have performers just sit in a chair for a minute but that doesn’t make the results any less mind blowing. A person carries their story, maybe stories as we have our persona and our life on our person at all times, with them wherever they go and with such acute focus from around a dozen people these stories are impossible to hide. They shine from our participants faces and without “doing” anything, the mood of the room could change, they could illicit laughter, or sadness, or gravitas. The tiniest movement, a shifting of weight, a scratching of an ear, became huge storytellers.
Improvisation is all about going for the obvious and taking risks and being yourself seems like the riskiest and most obvious thing one can do. Do it. Be uncomfortable.