On April 9th 2012, I wrote an improv blog which talked about the concept of Beginner’s Mind. On April 14th 2020, I find myself sitting down to write an improv blog about the concept of Beginner’s mind. A perfect reminder of beginning again, and begin again we must.
Improv is people standing in circles. Improv is eye contact. Improv is hearing people laugh. Improv is fascinating stage pictures. Improv is atmosphere, touch, song, gasps of disbelief. Or at least, it was.
And so, In the face of this unique global situation, one might wonder what is the point in continuing improvising? It certainly can’t be what it was, well not for a while anyway. I think NOT improvising in response to this makes perfect sense. Many of my dear friends and colleagues have gone into hibernation from improv for a while. They feel that this strange online equivalent is not what they signed up for. I get it. I agree. It’s a bit like being in an uncanny-valley-upside-down. It’s almost the same and yet, it’s totally different.
One thing I do know is that I am bad at online improvising. I am stumbling Bambi-like and squinting into this new world. I am terrible at this. None of the things I once understood apply. Rather than having a beginner’s mind, I am now just a beginner again.
At least improv has taught me not to fear failure. I am failing each day and finding as much joy in it as I can. Since setting up our online classes, our teachers have almost daily research and development sessions. Bringing our questions and ideas and experiments into the zoom laboratory. We try them, we pull them apart, we reinvent them and put them back together again (or throw them in the bin). It’s painful, but it’s also refreshing.
We have been playing around with new ways of doing longform. Or is it longform? Maybe that needs a new word too. New ways of editing, entering, layering, linking. In a class the other day, a student said thanks for coming up with these new techniques. I answered honestly; we just made it up. It’s a way, not the way. We are learning, inventing and most importantly, sharing. As I write this, I am already a member of countless Facebook groups for doing improv online. Teaching it, performing it, making the tech work. All shared freely and with nothing expected in return.
That part that we don’t have to start again is the community and the sense of all being connected. Hell, maybe we’re more connected now in some ways. So I’ll keep plodding on, trying to work out this new way of working, and maybe see some of you there. The rest of you, I’ll see you on the other side and oh god, I am going to hug you so hard (if you’ll let me).
The Maydays run online improv classes in collaboration with The Nursery 7 days a week at various times and levels.