I was walking to the theatre this afternoon for the improv show and was hoping that solo scenes would not be a part of it. In improv we sometimes use a competition-like format. It is not a competition in a sports sense but rather a way to facilitate it for the audience to invest themselves in the show and connect to the characters on stage. In any competition there are winners and losers but on stage we all support each other. The real competition is always against self in the constant strife to get better and to do a good show. That said, nobody likes to lose spectacularly which is my track record with solo scenes. OK, so it is was a track record of one but, oh, what a disastrous one!
So as I was getting closer to the theatre, an anticipation of the rush of being on stage has set in and I stopped dreading the possibility of facing my nemesis. Or rather being inside my nemesis? Well, you know what I mean.
As the “competition” progressed and other players left the show (no, it is not like wrestling – we do not determine winners or losers; it is all improvised) it was down to three players including yours truly. If you thinking “Oh my god! The last round is going to involve solo scenes!”, you are correct! Of course, being a much more experienced improviser than I was the last time I had a lot more tools in my improv belt. Of course, having gone through the emotional rollercoaster of the last three months, I felt about as sure of myself as a eunuch in a whorehouse. I have about zero self-assurance. In my time as an improviser, I had numerous opportunities to train with some amazing artists. I chose to put my trust in their craft and in what they have taught me. Without thinking that it was all on me, I was able to relax and pull together a pretty amazing scene that the audience loved. I did not end up winning the show but I came in second and that was my best showing so far. Afterwards, fellow improvisers came up to congratulate me and tell me how much they loved my solo scene. It was a success.
And yet, it was a success that still felt empty, for She was not with me. She will never know what happened tonight. In the end, win or lose, every success feels like a loss for I have lost Her.
(This article got started independently of today’s Daily Prompt but it fits nicely with the theme.)
My six word story:
This morning, as I was talking to my Mind Technician (that is how he likes to think of himself), he said something that made me sit back and go:
We were discussing my established patterns of thinking negatively. In the cognitive behavioural therapy, there is a thing called “cognitive distortions.” These are perverted cognitive processes that negatively distort the thinking. There are 10 of those buggers though my “go to favourites” seem to be Overgeneralisation (viewing a negative event as a never ending pattern of defeat) and Emotional Reasoning (assuming that negative emotions necessarily reflect the reality: “I feel it, therefore it must be true.”). So basically whenever something bad or negative happens, I start cursing and putting down myself for all sorts of things. In fact, I sometimes manage to do this when something positive happens if I find that I did not do well enough. So the doc suggested that I do not automatically trust my thinking since it seems to be so negatively predisposed against myself.
That set off a minor inner explosion. This is precisely what has been plaguing my improv performances. I need to stop thinking or relying on my ideas for scenes because my thinking has been damaged by years of self-neglect and self-hate. And nobody wants to see that on stage! So for the next while what I need to do instead is go in with an emotional choice rather than a cognitive one. Maybe even pair it with a statement (e.g., “Oranges are awesome!”) and figure out the rest along the way and trust my scene partners to support me. (Improvisation – what a concept!) There is nothing inherently wrong with making a cognitive choice for a scene (e.g., “Three rabbits are discussing forest gossip”) but, for the moment, it is not the right way for me. Thinking triggers more thinking and in my case it is all negative.
In my recent post on getting back into improv, I have discussed getting bogged down in my mind and forgetting one of the cardinal rules of improv: play and have fun. I need to get back to being playful and emotional. Also, in my case, I should probably stick to positive emotions for awhile. Not too long ago, Joe Friedman (thetalkingtherapist) commented on my post Being Funny saying that I might not be funny for awhile but that I might get deeper. Let us hope so. The reason audiences care about the characters on stage is because they connect with them. If I manage to become more emotionally moving on stage, that can only improve the overall experience for the spectators and for myself and maybe help me discover more of my true self through that experience.
For the first time in quite some time, there is actually something to look forward to in my life.