Thursday, May 12th, 2016...4:14 pm

Being Yourself with Second City Improv

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Growing up, I participated in speech contests, and usually did pretty well. In high school, I minored in drama. In university, I worked as a tour director for grade 8 students; my main job description was making a fool out of myself in public to make learning interesting. Most recently, I won the 3 minute thesis competition at OISE. My background is littered with public performance, so you can imagine my surprised when I found myself reluctant to “put it all out there” at the Second City Improv event Gradlife hosted two weeks ago.

It turns out, it’s a lot easier to be silly in public when you’re performing from a rehearsed script. Putting your entire self on display though, spouting out your thoughts honestly as they come? Not so easy. And it’s especially not easy for grad student who spend more time with research and professors than on a stage. There’s something about improvisation that forces a person to break down the walls we’ve so carefully crafted to keep ourselves safe.

13174002_10205450994708048_4114092615329039458_nIn everyday life, those walls make sense. It makes sense that we’re able to say no, that we don’t reveal all of our cards to strangers walking by in the street. In improv, however, those walls have to come down. Our wonderful instructor told us that performing improv is all about chipping away at those walls little by little until there’s only you left on the stage, raw and open for the world to see. Kinda scary, huh? Well, yes, but it’s also very freeing, and it lets you develop an honest bond with relative strangers that is seldom experienced in everyday life.

When you create a supportive environment where everyone is going to cheer you on even when you fall, especially when you fall, then the scary aspect of being yourself goes away. It turns out that the only reason doing that is scary, is because we all have little voices in our heads telling us that we’re being looked at, and being judged. “What if I look stupid?” “What will they think if I do this?” “Oh god, I’m just not funny”. Here’s the thing about that, it also turns out that everybody else is too busy having those exact same thoughts to even worry about what’s going on with you.

13166094_10205450994348039_729475979443087147_nRealistically, we know that complete strangers aren’t going to clap and cheer when we stumble, but if we can shake off the little things as they come, and be a little more honest about the selves were putting forth, then maybe we can start to break down some of those walls that keep us from meeting new people, and taking chances. At the end of the day, the Second City Improv event was an amazing experience for 20+ adult, graduate and PhD students to let it all loose, to shake off the bonds that keep us facing inward, and a chance for us to really have fun and be ourselves beyond the “I’m a Masters/I’m a PhD candidate” definition we tend to label ourselves with.

And hey, I learned that if you stumble (like I did at the improv class, quite literally), then you just need to brush yourself off, take a fabulous bow and move on. Everybody else already has.




*Side note: this event was so successful that we’ll likely be running it agains soon, so stay tuned for opportunities to sign up for some fun!*


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