Weekend at the Improv

When I left my job, the thought of going around and having individual conversations to say “goodbye” filled me with far more dread than the idea of not getting paid for a couple of months. That was my lightbulb moment. Maybe, I have social anxiety. Honestly, I should have realized it way before that moment.

Ignorant of my social anxiety affliction, I signed up for an improv class because I want to work on public speaking, learn to be more present, and improve my small talk game. Many of my classmates listed similar reasons for signing up from improv. Thankfully, improv is also helpful for social anxiety.

Class Format

Most improv classes are for two hours.  However, I accidentally signed up for an intensive “Beginning Improv Class” that meets for two weekends with two classes each day.  Our day starts at 10:30 and ends at 16:30 (minus a lunch break).  Beginner improv classes typically have 12-14 students and an instructor.  The grande finale for our course is the improv “showcase” that we will perform for our family and friends.

Like most things, the idea of improv seemed way scarier then it is. My classmates, many of whom are introverts and/or people interested in personal growth, are kind people. We also play games and follow routines that help create trust and a supportive environment.

A typical class loss like this:

  • Games like boom, clap that involve us receiving and passing something imaginary and making noises. These games require careful attention. Also, mistakes will get made. Maybe you won’t clap when you should have, pick it up and move on.
  • Before we start improv-style play, we walk around the room, saying “I got your back” and patting one another on the back.
  • Sketches/Improv. One person starts a scene with either an emotion, a line of dialogue (that isn’t a question), or using a make-believe object.
  • As we wrap up the class, we go around the circle and praise someone or the group.
  • Lastly, we stand shoulder to shoulder in a circle with eyes shut. We try to count to 21. If two people call out numbers at the same time, we start over.

Improv Take-Aways

  • It’s not about you. Your job is to make your partner look good.
  • Yes, and. Whenever an idea or scenario is brought to you, go with it. Anything less and you are shutting down the other person. You don’t get to control the situation. Let it evolve.
  • Don’t fret the inevitable mistakes or missteps. Embrace them as an opportunity for magic. Regardless, move on quickly.

What’s after improv?

Hopefully, another improv class. Like many introverts, I spend a lot of time in my head. Improv class forces me to be present in a way that I’m generally not able to be present.  And it’s fun!

If you are looking to be more present, less anxious or more confident, I recommend you consider taking an improv class, too!

Becky Elliott

After dropping out of a liberal arts college that focused on reading and discussing the “Great Books”, Becky Elliott found her way to a career in IT. For 20+ years, she has held a number of roles in Dev and Ops, and the area in between the two. In working for organizations in which poor security practices can cost lives, she’s an ardent believer in integrating security through the entire design process. Becky holds a number of industry certifications including the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).

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