I just started my latest summer adventure this past Saturday. I’m taking improv classes!!! Chicago is the improv mecca with an incredible number of theaters and teams throughout the city. I’m not exactly new to improv but the quality and excitement here is unlike anything I could imagine.
Four years ago, when I was living in Ohio, through a series of coincidences I ended up at a long form improv show one night. I had never seen anything like it – I sat stunned as the hour long performance unfolded. I constantly had to remind myself that everything was being made up on the spot. And oh yea, it was a musical so all the songs and dances were also being invented right before my eyes. It was magic. The cast made it look easy but sitting in the audience the idea of being an improviser terrified me. The next morning I woke up early and I decided to follow my fear. I signed up for classes. Within months I was performing with an all female team once a week. I made a hilarious group of friends and, oh yea, I fell in love with one of the guys I saw performing that first night.
Improv is an art form that is all about being present and contributing on stage. It is about quieting your mind and being authentic, real, and supporting the people you’re performing with. It’s about never knowing what is about to happen and showing up anyways. I’ve got to admit after completing one year of grad school my first improv class was a breathe of fresh air. It’s a nice change of pace from the level of thought and analysis involved in writing papers and artist statements. I’m looking forward to seeing how I can balance and weave improv into my visual art practice. I plan on incorporating performance more in my work over the next couple years and improv might be the perfect thing to help that evolution.
I’d be lying if I said that improv wasn’t a reason that contributed to our decision to move to Chicago. My boyfriend, Brandon, started taking classes at iO Chicago as soon as we moved last fall. It’s an amazing way to meet people and such a supportive community. I always knew I wanted to learn improv in the city where it all started but I was hesitant about adding another commitment to my already heavy work load. This summer has been the perfect opportunity to start. There are 6 levels to iO’s improv training program and each level is 8 weeks in length. Several of my talented classmates are actually Columbia College Chicago undergraduate students in the comedy studies program. It’s my goal to continue taking classes throughout next school year, hopefully completing the entire program next summer.
If you aren’t quite sure what improv is, I’d encourage you to go see a show. There are a thousand theaters in this city! Please feel free to email me if you want a recommendation. Check it out, you might fall in love and end up on stage – hey, you never know what’s going to happen.