I've been thinking for the last few years, that attention is the rent we pay for being in relationship, for being in community.
It was never such a privilege to pay attention as it was, many years ago, when I was teaching high school reading and drama classes, and became the advisor for the Improv Comedy Club. Thinking back, I marvel at the quick wit and facility with ideas, language and expression that these teenagers had. How fluent and adaptable they were to performance situations where anything could change (and did) with the drop of a word or addition of a new gesture!
Nick was a wiry, nervous Italian looking kid, earnest and new to the Improv team, often half-a-beat late with his responses, or just this side of awkward, in its own kind of funny. Mariel was a comic genius, with a rounded buxom figure, huge brown eyes and an impressive range of physical expression, and she could also get really LOUD in all the good ways. Tawd was clever, almost effortlessly funny both onstage and off, and a deceptively mellow, slow voice. He's the reason I acquired a nickname among the drama classes, and I remember him fondly for that. Aliza was slim, sly, sarcastic, with a drawling kind of vocal delivery that could quicksilver turn to something manic and panicked if the character called for it. Lucas was tall, with what his friends teased him was "emo kid hair", at that gangly teenage stage where his every gesture seemed floppy, but he sure knew how to use that puppety-ness to his advantage, like a Tim Burton character. Brandon was short and compact. He had a deep voice that belied his small frame, and an onstage poise and speed on the uptake that was nothing short of marvellous. Adam was blond, almost with ringlets, and our tech guy when he wasn't onstage. He was ridiculously silly and ridiculously smart, and I still remember one skit where he was spontaneously, slowly, somersaulting around the stage for no apparent reason.
They were all, every one of them, hilarious, but Parker felt like the ringleader. That kid... well. Damn, that kid was a force to be reckoned with. Sandy sort of dishwater brown hair (and I'm not just saying that because he had a positive TALENT for pissing me off), a nondescript sort of everyman face, and sleepy-looking hooded eyes, he was an absolute fucking chameleon onstage, with a rubber face and a skill at vocal characterization that reminded me of the young Jimmy Stewart. He's the one who I remember (with Mariel and Tawd) as starting the club and teaching the other kids all the improv games. He had a very strong personality, and he pushed hard to get the team members to practice all the different kinds of games and to get them in shape for competitive Improv Comedy events with other schools.
Parker was so funny and occasionally so bizarre... I remember how impressed I was with how much he knew about comedy and improvisation. I was brand new to the drama gig, and I don't mind at all saying that I learned virtually everything I know about improv and theater games from these kids. From Highway Patrol to New Choice, tongue-twisters and physical warmups, their speed and sarcasm and joy and silliness just delighted me. I would watch from the audience space and sometimes grade papers as they worked and played and tried new things, always new things, even with the old games they all knew well.
Building characters and scenes with zero stage props or maybe only hats or scarves or a couple of chairs from the audience is what made me think of them when I saw this week's prompt. These kids? I could imagine them EASILY getting a "confession from the chair." You'd be laughing at the one-sided conversation, imagining the chair's responses, and then cheering as the chair is dragged offstage. Of course, there'd be implications that a well-deserved beat-down will happen once the chair is in lockup.
It was a privilege to pay the rent there, to be on the sidelines watching the worldbuilding these kids could do in the blink of an eye. I got no call to be proud of them, I didn't teach them anything. They did it all themselves, but I'm proud of them nevertheless. It was a pleasure to know them.
I hope they are all still finding joy in words and connection and their own quick minds, making creative and subversive things in the world, and messing with people's heads.
This has been my entry for therealljidol
. This week's prompt was, as I mentioned, "Confession from the Chair."Here
is a link to one place you can find short descriptions of improv comedy games, you can also google "theater games" or improv games if you would be interested in learning more. Also I recommend comedysportz san jose
as an example of improv comedy as a hell of a lot of fun for an evening's entertainment. (hmmm, I need to get out and see that again sometime soon!)