Get out of your head and you will have access to infinite possibilities. How many times have we been told, “Get out of your head”? The problem is, the harder we try, the more we’re sure to stay in it. When our minds are occupied by thoughts of trying to think ahead or trying to find the joke/game or what furthers the plot, we are no longer open to every possibility. So what to do? Get out of your head and get into . . . the now. You might ask: But if I get out of my amazing memory of impressive facts, how can I wow the audience with quick wit and pop culture trivia? Or, how can I make the scenes relevant without implementing current events and philosophical references? Personally, I hate when a stage gets littered with “clever clutter”. It’s a guaranteed sign that the actors don’t trust the scene. The 13th century poet and mystic, Rumi, said, “Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.” Observe the artist who successfully suspends their rational, linear mind andmoves ‘into the zone’. It’s when your thinking mind lures you out of the zone – out of the “now” –that you resort to the clutter. Be present. Look at your partner. Look at them entirely. Really look at them. (Or really feel them.) When you get into the present, your mind stops, and everything that is important rises to the surface. Compare the hyperactive dispensing of cleverisms to a string quartet where the musicians are banging on their instruments. If the “chatter” is noisy, then no one will notice the subtle pluck of the perfectly tuned viola. That subtle pluck could be what takes you to the next level of relationship and scenic progression. That subtle pluck was probably the heart of the scene. If you’d rather make a joke, then that subtle pluck will never be heard.
I was inspired to write a book about the Laws of Improv, because after so many years of watching improvisation become “mainstream”, I was still shocked to see how many people thought it was something that only “funny, clever” people did, or worse – feared it. I’m not that clever, but I do have more funny moments than the average person. Hitting those moments (quite by accident) gave me encouragement to move forward. I took it as a hint to further explore other different forms, but at no time was I ever afraid. I took my fearlessness for granted. Recently, I thought I should look inward to see why I was so attracted to improv and why I loved it so. I asked myself: What is it in me that makes me fearless without a script? Why am I so excited about uncertainty? It seems that I – and many others– was born with a knowing. A knowing that is there for everybody. This is when I began to put it into words. While doing this, I was surprised to learn that a very skilled improv friend did not have this innate knowing, but that years ago had forced themselves to cultivate it. What if they had this information 20 years ago?
We all know the basic rules of improv: Don’t ask questions, Don’t deny, YesAnd, etc. But these rules can and have been broken by many a seasoned improviser. We’ve seen it, and it gives us delight to see how a pro handles it. What I now discovered – literally at my kitchen table – is that there are Laws of Improv, and these can never be broken. They are like the laws of physics – they just are. I’m hoping that these Laws will bring you a sense of relief and peace. Knowing that no matter what you to do, these laws will never change and you can find comfort in them. Once you fully understand them and make them part of your play time, you will be able to achieve great things. After all, air travel is only possible by understanding the Law of Gravity.