Being part of the “U-lab”, a MOOC (massive open online course) by MIT (Massachusets Institute of Technlogy), I am strongly focussed nowadays on the question on how and why improvisation and the application of its principles and techniques, has such a strong value in our daily life and work (often filled with high-demanding conditions).
This is also a core question in a project Inspinazie is developing with F-act and Vlerick Business School (“Unfolding the Power of Improvisation in Management Education”).
I’d like to share a concept Otto Scharmer presents in one of the U-lab videos, and that resonates as a strong answer on that question. He talks about the four distractions that keeps us away of being “in the now”, which are the past, the present, the concept of “me” and the concept of “them”.
Letting go all of those is essential to be in the here & now, and is something we practice a lot in improvisation (theatre) training. Though maybe not always very directly, and that is why the practice of things as yoga, mindfulness and meditation can be very complementary.
If we only let go we get detached of everything and that is not what we strive for, both in improvisation theatre and life. The point is that if we let go all that is not essential, we can let come that what wants to emerge.
In this visual from U-Lab, LET COME becomes much more tangible (the words in black):
To play improvisation, we practice to go from all those edges close enough to the center:
> Instead of getting stuck in patterns and play the same scenes over and over (extended focus on past), we learn to use the past (what happend before in the scene) as an aswer for new things that happen (re-integrating, closing circles, finishing the puzzle,..)
> We practice not to control scenes with ideas we might have on how the story could continue or even end (extended focus on future). From what we see, hear, feel,.. we ‘re always ready to let go ideas in order to welcome and honor the new (sometimes very subtle) thing that comes in.
> We take our part of responsability and don’t rely completely on fellow players (extended focus on them). The best (and in the end easiest!) way of doing that is listening very carefully to them, cause this will be the source of inspiration the moment that we take initiative.
> We leave our ego in the backstage (extended focus on “me”). Which is probably one of the most difficult things as most persons that chose to perform in front of an audience, are not the ones with a small ego :-). We learn not to be preoccupied with what audiences will think of our specific part in a scene and if they will remember us. What is important though, is to be aware of what is happening inside both the character and the improviser, because that is the place from where to give authentic responses.
As collegue Suzanne Kempeneers stated:
“Improvisation is mindfulness in action.”