Monday, November 9, 2009

Improv - Getting out of my shell - 11/10/09

Recently I decided I needed an outlet to get me away from Seinfeld reruns and out from in front of this computer screen. I signed up for a creative writing class through the local University’s continuing education program. I tried this three times. Two of the classes were canceled due to lack of interest. The third I dropped out of after the first session. The instructor was not going to be able to hold my attention. She had a voice that made me yearn for the sound of stray cats having intercourse outside my bedroom window. And her qualifications for teaching creative writing were that she had once vanity published a cookbook that was still available for purchase in India. So Seinfeld reruns were looking pretty good.

One day at the Bark Park I met a lady that was involved in an improv group and found that classes were available locally. When I got home that evening I went online and found the group’s website. It looked interesting and a beginner’s six week class was forming, so I signed up immediately.

I have just completed that course of study and though improv is miles outside my comfort level, I am glad that I did. The experience of the improv performance is secondary to the pleasure I received from my association with my fellow classmates. There were eight of us in the class from extremely diverse backgrounds that connected immediately and became a cohesive unit. I found myself looking forward to our weekly gatherings. As we got to know each other, we developed friendships outside of the classroom.

One thing became immediately apparent to me as I learned more about my fellow cast members. In comparison to the full, rich, lives that these people led, my life was very empty and sad. Somehow, I have lost my identity and no longer have a purpose to my existence. That sounds extreme, but it is very true. My contributions to conversation were about my kids, grandkids, and dog’s lives. There was very little to say about myself other than things I did in the past, not things I do now. I have become an observer of life and not a participant. I did not realize how low my self-esteem had plunged.

When we performed I always felt my contributions were less than those of my classmates. I hear their brilliance and my flaws. Even when I was complimented by another member of the cast or the instructor, I never really accepted it as more than them being nice. I brought my camera and took photos of the other performers for my Facebook, assuring I was never included. My daughter mentioned that fact and I joked about it, but the truth is that I have let myself go to the point that I hate to see my image in a mirror or photograph. I use self-deprecating humor to reinforce my low self-image. One of my new friends has tried her best to not allow me that defense mechanism. I thank you for that Lauren, even though I don’t always acknowledge it. When one of my posse publicly stated that she looked forward to doing a scene with me, my inappropriate reaction was one of utter disbelief, shock, and awe. Instead of accepting that honor as it was intended, I tried to rationalize and downplay it in my mind. Could anyone actually want to perform with me? Though it gave me the best feeling I have experienced in ages, I didn't really believe it.

I am so thankful that I took improv instead of creative writing. When I write, I can hide here in my writer's garret and never leave my comfort zone or my home. I am secure enough in my writing ability to never challenge myself. Getting onstage in front of others makes my heart race and I know I am alive. I regret that I did not take advantage of the support that my troupe offered me, trivializing their praise.

Our entire group has decided to continue on to the next level in our improv education. I am going to try to start with a new, positive, approach. With the support of my new, dear, friends, maybe I can get my verve on. There was a time in my life that I was confident almost to the point of being cocky. I am going to try to get that Rick back. I think everyone will like him better. I know I will.

12 comments:

Shyam said...

I think your friends are lucky even knowing the old Rick... and I'm certain the new Rick is going to be even more awesome - especially as his writing abilities are only going to get better with all the new experiences. Go Rick! (Dont forget your blog fans, though)

myrtle beached whale said...

Don't worry, writing will always be my first love. I still like the availability of the delete key. I appreciate my loyal readers more than you will ever know.

Roger said...

There is nothing at all wrong with the Rick I just met. An engaging and intelligent man willing to go out of the comfort zone. Wish I had cojones like that.

myrtle beached whale said...

I think I have become that old Woody Allen line: "I would never join a club that would accept me as a member."

Lena said...

I think you're brillant no matter what! I hope you continue to see the you the rest of us see.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful for you and I am envious. I sit here daily at my desk, a quasi executive with no power to affect anything where I work. I go home to nothing, not even a dog. I wish for the weekends, yet when they come I wish for work. At least there are others at work...conversation, concern, even an occasional hug. Life without any purpose or direction - mere existance. It truly wears one down, cynicism really overtakes when someone tries to invade your solitary life. Surely there must be an alternative motive. That lack of confidance that pervades and convinces you that certainly no one would just like to visit me.

Anyway I empathize with how you were feeling and envy that you have found an outlet. I wish I could find something satisfying like that. I am happy for you. clo

Gina said...

Rick, thank you for writing this because it continues to humble me to be able to offer these classes that impact people. Thank you for giving me this glimpse of you that I wasn't aware of - your feelings of lack of confidence and self esteem. Good on you for pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and letting the class and myself be part of it!

Regina said...

Sorry to nitpick, but Groucho Marx said "I would never join a club that would have someone like me for a member".
But congrats on the improv! It sounds fun and terrifying at the same time.

myrtle beached whale said...

Regina: It was a line in Woody Allen's Annie Hall and was attributed to Groucho Marx in the movie. Since I had never heard Groucho say it, Woody Allen was my source. I am glad we got that straight.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm glad for one. Maybe you should try other forms of theater too. Hopefully we can make it to your next show. Love ya. Carly

Blondie said...

I think you are plenty engaging and entertaining with the written word, but I applaud your efforts to "get out there" in the Real World with Real People. Your talent is too great to be squandered in the vastness of internetland.

Anonymous said...

My friend and I were recently discussing about how technology has become so integrated in our day to day lives. Reading this post makes me think back to that discussion we had, and just how inseparable from electronics we have all become.


I don't mean this in a bad way, of course! Ethical concerns aside... I just hope that as memory gets less expensive, the possibility of transferring our memories onto a digital medium becomes a true reality. It's a fantasy that I daydream about every once in a while.


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