One of the great reasons to love improv is its fleeting nature. There’s no record of it. It comes, it goes. We’re left with our memories of it. Our memories. It’s a nice gift we let ourselves have. It helps if you like you.
One of the great things about performing improv is that we aren’t able to watch ourselves improvise. We have a vision in our skull of what we look like when we’re in the act of unfolding a character. It helps us unfold and evolve that character, for there’s no evidence as to whether we’re “doing it right” or “doing it wrong.” Because we don’t see it, we give ourselves the opportunity to just create without self-judgment.
That is, until someone does something that puts our process smack dab into our eyes.
When I was the Artistic Director at Second City Los Angeles we had a very small space that was our theatre. Just a black box, a small riser of a stage, and flat black walls. One day our stage manager, all on his own, decided it would be a good idea to put mirrors up on the walls. All the walls. Covered ’em. Now every interaction was brilliantly reflected, every action apparent, every movement mirrored.
I hated it. I’m long gone from that event and I still cringe. When I was on stage living a character that was a beautiful woman, now I could see that I wasn’t. I was me…a man. When I was on stage being a young boy character, now I could see that I wasn’t. I was me…a man. When I was on stage acting all suave Daniel Craig-y, now I could see that I wasn’t. I was me, Jewish David Razowsky.
That mirror invited my ego in, my “self” in. It trumped my imagination, it heavily challenged my suspension of disbelief, it brought “me” in, when I didn’t need “me” to appear, nor to be an arbiter of how I was doing.
Over the years I’ve learned to be mindful, to be in the moment, to give focus to what serves my joy and my scene partner. I’ve learned to stop looking into a mirror, realizing that so often that mirror isn’t literally a mirror, rather it’s a mental reflection where we artists sacrifice the joy of the process for the “thrill” of falling down the rabbit hole of doubt, dancing with judgment and second-guessing. I’ve learned to see the mirror, but not to look into it.
David Razowsky is a master improv instructor. He’s the former Artistic Director of the Second City Training Centre, a co-founder of the Annoyance Theatre, and the host and creative force of ADD Podcast with Dave Razowsky and Ian Foley. He has a long list of celebrity friends, and an equally impressive collection of Bloody Mary photos.
Reblogged this on Life as Art… and a bit of nonsense… and commented:
David Razowski has been an inspiration to me, not only in my improv theater play, but deliciously spilling over into my writing and visual arts life. I have many other amazing mentors who have had more physical time with me, and who have helped me craft my skills and joy. But it was my good fortune that David came into my heart and head at the right time to help me discover what it was I really wanted to do with my story telling… I still struggle with mirrors, self-doubt, second guessing, but it rarely happens on stage anymore. Or in my studio. Thank you David, for helping me really trust that it was what I had on the inside that counted… I just had to let it out.
When I read “I’m long gone from that event and I still cringe.”, I could so see and feel his expressions. I also got images of a perfectly cooked halibut in some amazingly decadent sauce that David would then photograph, but that has nothing to do with this lovely and wise post. My two weekends with this man were amazing. He is a lovely soul and I am grateful for his teachings.
We couldn’t agree more, Bob. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. : )