scary. things (part.two.)

scary. things (part.two.)

“Let’s go around and everyone say their name, where they’re from, why they’re here.”

“I’m Becca, I’m here by accident, I thought I was taking a writing class and I’m absolutely terrified to be here.” 

“Great!” 

 

It’s astonishing how quickly you get comfortable with a group of strangers when you’re all thrust into the same uncomfortable situation. The writing class I’d signed up for a month ago was cancelled due to low enrollment, and the center had called me a week prior, asking if I’d like to take another class that was at the same time on the same days, but would be improv in the morning, and writing in the afternoon. I said No the first three times the admission’s person asked. But at the last minute, right before hanging up, I’d blurted, “Wait! Okay I’ll do that one. The improv/writing one!” I figured 1.5 days of writing instruction was better than none at all. And hey, maybe I could just be late to the improv mornings, or make up some excuse to only come in the afternoon. After all, I’d already booked and paid for the hotel and train ride. I’d been looking forward to this. But there was no way in hell I was interested in doing improv.

By the time I realized, on the first day of class, that I’d been accidentally put into a third class option–the all day improv class–I’d already emotionally bonded with my five fellow hostages and couldn’t imagine starting over the next day with brand new people who hadn’t traversed my awkward dance activity with me. Hadn’t encouraged me through a round of gibberish. I’d already learned important aspects of my fellow weirdos and I didn’t feel right saying, “Um, excuse me Second City people… I think there’s been a mistake. Please put me in the other class where I’m going to have to bond with new people who already bonded with their own people.”

There was some legitimate panic. I’m not an actress. I can’t even lie very well. I was making the decision to stay in this class so far out of any comfortable activity I’d ever decided to take up, but I was terrified to do it.

One of the first things our improv teacher for the weekend told us was, “You are all going to be okay.” I’d be lying if I said I believed him when he said this. I was pretty sure that if there was such a thing as dying of embarrassment or discomfort, even if no one had died of that yet, I would be the first person in history it would happen to. Medical people for years to come would study it, the Becca Syndrome. Poor lady died in the middle of a black and green film room that was inexplicably air-conditioned in the middle of fucking winter in Chicago while trying to come up with a new, funny way to portray the sad side of a fish market. The textbooks would offer a little picture of me in the corner in black and white, looking, myself, like a dead fish too petrified to move. Medical students reading about my tragic demise would laugh to cover up their own insecurities, the worries they had about their own mortality when facing uncomfortable situations in their sought-after profession. What if an elderly person or a baby pooped on them? What if a really ill person pre-quarantine spewed blood all over their face? What if they were asked a hard question during medical rounds that they couldn’t answer or were asked to perform a procedure that, done wrong, would surely kill the patient? Would they die of Becca Syndrome?!?

Luckily, Sean, our instructor, was right and everything was okay. We all made it through the three days without any of us dying. There were two or three times I thought, this would be a good time to burst into tears, but luckily, I was able to refrain from doing that as well.

So, in the absence of a desire to move classes, and with a newfound sense of camaraderie with my classmates, I stayed. I decided to see how this all works, this improv bit. How do people get onstage and somehow, coherently create one scene together on the fly. How is this sausage link made. How do people become so comfortable with themselves onstage. Maybe you had to be born with certain criteria that I lacked and always would… but maybe there were tricks you could learn. Maybe by being here, I would learn how to let go a little. It was worth a shot, anyway.

 

 

scary.things. (part.one.)

scary.things. (part.one.)

There’s an old saying about how no one wants to see how the sausage is actually made. To be honest, it sounds pretty wise to me, to keep your nose out of such things. I’ve heard rumors about what goes into sausage, and the very idea of tubular meat kind of makes me wretch to begin with. So on first consideration, I am inclined to agree: don’t get too nosy about the creation of things you love.

On second consideration, I am reminded that not everything is as disgusting as sausage. I am reminded of watching my cousin’s dance recitals as a kid, and watching my daughter’s dance rehearsals when she was little. When you sit and watch an advanced dancer doing a move that looks effortless to you, listen. Stop every single thing you are doing and just listen.

Listen very carefully.

As she is spinning in a way that seems to defy everything you know about physics, and looks as if she were just born to be able to do it… listen.

What you will likely hear–and I could be wrong, but I don’t think I am–is a smattering of polite clapping from most of the people in the audience. Some oooohs and aaaaaaahs about how pretty the graceful execution of this move is. Some sighing, whispering about how beautiful that looks and how lucky this beautiful person is to have been born a certain way to be able to do such a thing.

And then.

AND THEN.

On top of that, you will hear every single dancer who is watching, either from the seats, or from backstage, old and young, current or has-been, going out of their freaking minds with cheers and applause for their fellow dancer. Because they know–they know–in a way no one else watching can really know, how hard it is to pull off this flawless-looking spin or jump. They saw all the times the dancer doubted herself, or fell. They know what it feels like, themselves, to fall or doubt or be helplessly sloppy. They know that dancer likely has cracked, bleeding toes hidden by their dainty ballet flats. They watched as each week, each day, the move improved. They cheered and supported and know every single ingredient that went into this move that maybe only takes a few seconds to perform, that most of the audience will likely forget about a day from now.

That loud cheering is love for the process. That loud cheering is pure, unadulterated knowledge of how this particular move was created and worked into reality. It’s recognition: I See You. Not just this beautiful end result, but every sacrifice you made up to this point. Every hard and scary thought or feeling you fought with trying to get here.

Obviously not all of us are going to be dancers. We’ve all wrestled with our own creative endeavors, though. We’ve all decided to try our hand at something hard and/or scary. We’ve all had our own sausage situations where we wondered, “Why in the hell did I want to see how to do that?!?” Sometimes these situations happen by accident.

It may come as no surprise to you by now, if you’ve read my blog for any amount of time, that I am drawn to comical writing. Unexpected laughter is by far the best, when you don’t see the punchline coming. When you didn’t realize you were in the middle of a joke at all. When one minute you’re so upset you’re crying and then you get hit with something so unexpectedly twisted and humorous you can’t help but laugh. Because of this, I made the impulsive decision about a month ago, to sign myself up for a writing course at The Second City. That’s where all the greats go. I wanted to see how they did it. I wanted to hear, if only for a few days, what went into the sausage that was sketch comedy.

And, because my own life is a sitcom in and of itself, and because the universe heard me about this whole “you love the unexpected” plot twist idea… I wound up in a 3-Day intensive improv class. At The Second City.

Scared shitless.

(…to be continued…)