Changing Statuses

Improvisation is a transparent art form. Both your strengths and your shortcomings will be exposed when you improvise, hopefully in front of an audience or in a class, to speed up the learning. The good news is this can be a tool to transform your life on stage as well as off.

When I first started improvising more than 25 years ago, I could only play low status characters because that is what I played in life. The thought of playing a high status character scared me since I viewed myself as such a loser in my own life.

Slowly, that changed. As I got more confidence on stage, I started to play higher status characters, which translated to my everyday life where I started playing a little more high status as well. The longer I improvised, the more I found the balance of playing a variety of high status and low status characters.

Or at least I thought.

In November I had Dave Pasquesi as a guest on Improv Nerd. Dave is a master on picking up the cues at the top of the scene, those first couple of seconds of silence, when most people think nothing is happening.

I started the scene immediately looking down at the ground and walking away from him. (Later my girlfriend, Lauren, commented this is how I start most of my scenes.) After the scene, we discussed what we had just done, and he said something really interesting to me. Dave said that when I looked at the ground and walked to the opposite side of the stage, it indicated to him that I was a low status character. I was shocked. I thought I was playing high status. This was not a conscious choice, but it made sense since I have felt for the most part that I was low status to most of my guests. Worse, I thought I was past this, but clearly I was not.

As painful as this was to hear, it was invaluable piece of information. I now I had the option of getting help to change this, since at least I was now aware of what I doing and I am slowly starting to change. I am feeling more confident with my guests and with the behind-the-scenes work of producing a weekly show, since I tend to play low status there, too. Viola Spolin says “improvisation is transformation.” I think when she said this she meant for life as well as for the stage.

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