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Getting Out Of Your Own Way

In 1999 I was asked to teach an improv class, something I knew very little about. I wanted to at least seem like I knew what I was talking about so I tried to find a book/handout/exercises that I could use as my own. I quickly figured out that the genesis point for all improv and theater games was Viola Spolin.

So I got her book “Improvisation for the Theater: Second Edition”. What I discovered changed not only my creative life, but forced me to confront my ideas about myself, the world, and my relationship to it.

It was on page 6 in a section called Approval/Disapproval and it said…

"The first step towards playing is feeling personal freedom. Before we can play (experience) we must be free to do so. It is necessary to become part of the world around us and make it real by touching it, seeing it, feeling it, tasting it, and smelling it. Direct contact with the environment is what we seek. It must be investigated, questioned, accepted or rejected. The personal freedom to do so leads us to experiencing and thus to self-awareness and self identity and self expression. The hunger for self identity and self-expression, while basic to all of us is also necessary for the theater expression."

"Very few of us are able to make this direct contact with ourselves. Our simplest move out into the environment is interrupted by our need for favorable comment or interpretation by established authority. We either fear that we will not get approval, or we accept outside comment and interpretation unquestionably. In a culture where approval/disapproval has become the predominant regulator of effort and position, and often the substitute for love, our personal freedoms are dissipated."

"Abandoned to the whims of others, we must wander daily through the wish to be loved and the fear of rejection before we can be productive. Categorized "good or "bad” from birth, as in a “good” baby does not cry too much, we become so enmeshed with the tenuous threads of approval and disapproval that we are creatively paralyzed. We see with others eyes and smell with others noses. Having thus to look to others to tell us where we are, who we are, and what is happening results in a serious and almost total loss of personal experiencing. We lose the ability to be organically involved in a problem, and in a disconnected way, we function with only parts of our total selves. We do not know our own substance, and in the attempt to live through or avoid living through the eyes of others, self- identity is obscured, our bodies become misshapen, natural grace is gone, and learning is affected. Both the individual and the art form are distorted and deprived and insight his loss to us."

"Trying to save ourselves from attack, we build a mighty fortress and or timid, or we fight it's time we venture forth.”

I felt like she saw right through me. I was living through the eyes of others. Always striving for approval --- even if it was from myself. How we live. How we feel. How we relate. All of it informs our creative selves. So in a real sense, if you want to be more you have to feel/experience more. After all, you can’t transmit something you haven’t got.

And that is something that must be accomplished in a class or theater setting. Why the else would you be there? I’ll leave you with this –

“We must reconsider what is meant by “talent”. It is entirely possible that what is called talented behavior is simply a greater individual capacity for experiencing.”Viola Spolin

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