From which zone do you improvise?

I loved how during the ITI-festival (ITI: International Theatresports Institute) in Würzburg in October, a cluster of workshops including mine all seemed to focus on “the playful place in our body and mind” we’re looking for. Dealing with Pressure, Don’t forget to Have Fun , From Reaction to Response, The Impro-Dojo, Vulnerability on Stage,… and probably some others I wasn’t involved in, all felt very connected which I loved.

stress-stretch-comfortIt all brought me to the I-don’t-know-where-it-comes-from “stress-stretch-comfort” model I often use in applied-impro trainings, to explain where playing and learning happen. I think it’s an important one to look at as impro-players. We want to take risks and be fearless on stage, so it feels natural and logic that we step out of our comfortzone. It’s good to see though  that there’s a zone betwéén comfort and stress. I see a lot of impro happening right in the stress-zone: it’s perfectly possible if your reaction is “fight” where others would “flight” or “freeze”. We could call it survival-impro: where ego’s fight against each other for the most clever joke. But even on a more subtle level it can happen that we play impro through stressreactions. The body doesn’t lie: bouncing legs, bit wide glassy eyes, tensed mouth,… What’s your alarm sign? Mine are the wielding arms I think.
I liked how Nadine Antler put it in her workshop: “Be in charge of your own stress.” Therefor it’s important to recognize our stress-signs, especially the most subtle ones. We need to be sensitive about our own stresslevel. So quickly it happens that a whole improgroup on stage slightly gets in the red zone and as “too-routined-yes-creatures” the improvisers forget to be honest about their fears.
The tricky thing is that we still easily get “real-good-job!”-impro in that state and stay there. And afterwards realize it was not the connected-magic-emergent-impro we love so much. Well… this does definitely not happen in the comfort zone, and.. neither in the stress zone!

Often it’s not even a big step to the stretch zone. Wait, Breath, Listen, Look. Those often can handle the job.
Easier said than done: yeah.. the neverending exercising of impro, or how to stretch the stretch-zone!

Also, the diversity in a group is important here. Being in the stretch zone does not mean the same for every player and in every show. We often tend to express the same amount of energy, physicality, words, initiative,… in a scène or show. Maybe pushing each other in stress or comfort. I find it beautiful when you see very different “qualities” on stage, each player fully “in charge of his own stretch”, respecting each other.
When every player can be in its own stretch-zone, the magic happens.

stretch/stress each other to increase awareness on it, ITI-festival Würzburg 2013
workshop “Don’t forget to have fun -Nadine Antler”


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