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Life is like Improv

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Quote of the Day: Life is like Improv. Said by one of my theatre workshop students, age 13.

Life is also like a game of tug-o-war!

Life is also like a game of tug-o-war!

I teach youth theatre workshops in the Brainerd lakes area of Minnesota. I had two classes last week, elementary students in the morning, and a middle school group in the afternoon. I work with them on skills, cooperation, and developing their characters. We write the story together. A pattern happens during every class. During the school year, I do the classes on Thursdays (Theatre Thursdays). The first day is exciting, filled with nerves, and moments of awkward silence. We’re all getting to know one another as we build trust, and know that it’s a safe place to be creative and feel accepted. The second day we get down to business. I’m the most terrified that day because we are getting the story started. It’s the blank page, or stage. In the middle days, the story develops, it gets messy. We have moments of frustration, and sometimes boredom. “I’m just sitting there,” someone might complain. Theatre is about learning how to wait your turn. Some people don’t seem to take it seriously enough, while others get so serious that they snap at other actors. That happened last Wednesday. At one point, we had to stop, sit down, and talk it through. 

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I explained it to the students: The great thing about doing a workshop like this where we write our own play is that we have this wide open freedom to create. The hard thing is that we don’t always know what’s happening. We get frustrated with each other and anxious because we don’t know where we’re going. That’s when the boy said, “Life is like improv.” Yes. Yes, it is. We start out anything with nerves and excitement. It’s new and fresh. We feel hopeful. Then, the work begins. About the time we’re in the thick of things, past the point of no return, we feel frustrated, even a little lost. Those are the days when I have the director’s brain saying, “What are you doing? This is crazy.” But, if we persevere and push through the hard parts, especially with the help of friends, we feel that amazing success. 

One girl brought her frustrations home and took action. She wrote out all our scenes in order so we’d all know what’s going on. She also did some research on Big Foot (part of our story) and told a great story in our final campfire scene. We ended up with a great play that we performed for family and friends on the last day. All the actors had fun parts. They were funny, imaginative, and full of energy. 

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After the applause and the clean-up were over, my gentler director’s brain said, “This is what you’re supposed to be doing.” Also, it helped that my friend reinforced those words. No one ever said that the creative life (LIFE) would be easy. Inspiration doesn’t always feel like a gentle breeze. Sometimes, it looks and feels like stumbling blocks, mud holes, and dark roads with just one small light leading you to the next step. And, as we discover in our game of “Bus Stop,” you never know who might end up sitting next to you on the bench!

Play off the Page Summer Theatre Workshop, Middle School class. Where's Big Foot?

Play off the Page Summer Theatre Workshop, Middle School class. Where’s Big Foot?

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: When were you faced with frustration that made you want to quit? How do you push through the bumpy parts? And, describe the feeling of success.

  1. And they don’t even realize all of the life lessons you are teaching them!

  2. Great story with great rewards. Congrats.
    Juneta @ Writer’s Gambit

  3. Creation can be very hard to do or so easy we wonder if we should should share it. Either way it is something that helps us grow. 🙂

    Anna from elements of emaginette

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