Monday, November 30, 2015

Improv Makes Better People : Part 01 Stereotypes

Improv for the non-improviser or "normal" person is a daunting task. To a lot of people, Improv is scarier than stand up. At least in standup, you get to write it beforehand. However, once you get into improv, you figure out, it's not that bad. It has all the aspects of live theatre, the same adrenaline rush from a good standup show, and a supportive team to back you.

I have a theory. Improv makes you a better person. I'll try and blog about it over the next month or two. We'll see. I get distracted very easily.

Part 01: Stereotypes

At some point an improviser will improvise with every age, race, sex, religion, ability, whatever. Every stereotype you have gets challenged for a few reasons.

1) You're in a pressure situation in which possible EMBARRASSMENT is multiplied.

When you're onstage and in a class, you are performing in front of others. The pressure is on. Even people with tendencies to go into otherwise shady territory, they have to know that for the first time everyone's opinion counts. However, it's a supportive environment and a forgiving environment, so you can run the tightrope of taboo. This type of situation breeds more thoughtfulness to what you do and hopefully you come to a realization that you can do anything with anyone no matter who or what they are as long as its from a place of thoughtfulness, fun, or curiosity.

2) People have to ability to play anything or anyone.

You may find yourself playing reprehensible characters or people you have pre-conceived notions about. A good improviser finds the humanity in every questionable character or questionable character choice. A good support improviser may give reasons for conduct and choices that can explain and help the situation. You may find humor or joy in things and people you never thought possible. You also have to be open to everything your brain allows. Close mindedness hinders you.

3) The more you improvise, the more you play with everyone.

The joy of improv overtakes any and all misconception. This is a personal opinion of mine, but I've never found more joy than the joy of having a great funny show with people I love. Everything else in the world pales in comparison. And the people I love grows every day, they get younger, older, and vary infinitely.

4) Seasoned improvisers are more forgiving of younger improvisers.

This is a big one. I've been improvising for a few years now and whenever I see a new improviser try out insanely questionable stuff, I know it's an attempt to fit in. Whenever someone blurts out something racist (which I have done quite a few times), it's out of fear or confusion. Whenever I see people make those moves, I think, they're just a little scared or going a little too far. But, they did it. And it's scary up there. I'm sure they didn't mean it, it just happened.

Personally, I've been labeled "Jose" or "Ricardo" or told to go clean something. The reaction of everyone's face and audible sigh makes it fine. I have no ill will towards anyone who brain farts their way into a corner. Hopefully, they dig themselves out or give a reason why. Or even dig themselves in further til absurdity. There's no room for hatred on the improv stage or resentment, there is room for understanding and there is room for standing up for oneself. Usually that gets a huge laugh.

Either way, improv improves people. Whether it's putting a mirror up to who they are, or realizing how to accept or forgive
, or just plain DESTROYING any pre-concieved notions you have about age,race, creed, religion, or ability.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Justin D. Torres on the Magnet Podcast

Hey Everyone,

I was just interviewed by Louis Kornfeld on the Magnet Podcast. This is kind of huge for me, because Magnet has become a real improv home for me. Louis Kornfeld was the long time artistic director of the Theater and I've loved all of his classes.

A quick story about Louis. I apologize if I've told this on another blog.

For some reason, we had a class scheduled for the day before Thanksgiving, only 5 out of the 15 people were there and our instructor couldn't make it either. We ended up having Louis as a sub.  Before he started class, he said (I'm paraphrasing), "I want to thank all of you for coming tonight. This is why I do this. I could care less about holidays, this is where the real happiness is for me. I couldn't think of a place I'd rather be than here with you all. "

That's what I remember about Louis. Sitting in a class, the day before a holiday and thinking that this is what I love. There may be no money in improv, we're all paying to do it. But, there is something beautiful about it. I'd rather do improv than 99 percent of other things.

This interview meant a lot to me. Feel free to listen to it. click here.