Learning to Swim

Improvisation is like an ocean; doing improv is like swimming. If your feet are touching the bottom, you may look like you’re swimming, but you’re not. You’re just standing in water. Likewise, if you’re on stage and you’re disengaged, planning ahead, not listening, making jokes, going meta, doing anything but floating on and adding to the ideas, stories and emotions that have been created by the group, you’re not improvising: you’re just standing on stage saying things.

Learning to swim is scary. We tend to think of learning as a process that takes us away from feelings of fear towards feelings of safety, from being intimidated by water to being comfortable in it. But that’s the wrong way around. It is impossible to learn to swim without going further out than what you’re comfortable with, without going towards the fear. Anyone can get their feet wet.

What I look forward to when I get the chance to improvise is the exhilaration I know I will feel from going out of my depth – if only for a few moments. Whether I am rehearsing or performing, if I am 100 per cent safe, there is no joy in it, and I know I am not learning anything, even though I’m surrounded by people whom I know will rescue me. Yet the instinct to stay within my personal capabilities is a strong one. The next time the voice in my head says to me: ‘I want to enjoy myself, and I won’t enjoy myself if there’s a risk of failure,’ I will reply: ‘That’s makes no sense, dumbass: you’re saying I’m afraid of learning to how to enjoy myself?’

By the way, look at this freakin’ underwater baby:


See also: ‘Improv Beach Holiday’


One Comment on “Learning to Swim”

  1. […] See also: ‘Learning to Swim’ […]

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