Thursday, January 13, 2011

Up There On The Stage, Completely OK

In the past, one of the things I wanted to become was more spontaneous (because I equated "spontaneous" with being light-hearted, less serious, more exuberant---none of which I really see myself as) so I attended Improvisation for Creative Pedagogy at Second City in Chicago. One of the techniques I learned was "Yes, and..."

The next time you have an opportunity to view an improvisation troupe in action, watch how they keep the energy going. They do this by accepting whatever it is the person before them has thrown out, no matter how ridiculous, inappropriate, or bad. So the acknowledgement of "Yes!" then the addition of "and" allows the next person to continue and build on what the previous person has started. You can see how this mutual journey to spark tons of creativity and discovery. It's the opposite of "Yes, but..."

In "Yes, but," you're not really saying "yes." You're saying no. You're shutting down the action, the energy, the opportunity to go where no man has gone before...You're negating all the good things you said up to that point.

In this post, William Zinsser writes about bad headlines that spur us to wonder why we should bother reading further.

Dan Goldstein gives insight into “Yes, and” as well as several other tools in his essay on improvisation.

Here Charles “Chic” Thompson and Lael Lyons teach readers how to respond to the Top 40 Killer Phrases, like “Yes, but…” designed to squelch new ideas.

Somehow my mind has linked improv with walking the high wire without a net. Improv is up on the stage---something that doesn’t happen in real life, something I watch from the audience. But Shakespeare had it most fitting when he said, “All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances…” (from “As You Like It”).

Mick Napier said, “Support your partner.” He continues, “Do something now. Two people making strong choices is nothing but supportive.” Finally, "Improvisation is the art of being completely OK with not knowing what the fuck you're doing."

That's me, by the way. Up there on the stage, doing improv. And I'm completely OK.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Enjoy some Tokay for me

Back in Guam, we lived next door to the chaplain for the USS Frank Cable (it's the one that had the steam rupture in DEC 2006 requiring medevac of seven patients to Brook Army Hospital for burns. Seaman Valentine died of inhalation injuries. The CO lost his job).

Chaps was quite the character. A poker-playing, Communist-hating, God-loving man, he was from Hungary and grew up under the Communists (hence the passionate distaste---and don't get him started on Muslims, either). He started a Bible study at his home on Wednesday evenings and, when we returned from Thailand, I talked to him about Buddhism. Buddhism, as a philosophy, held a distinct lure for me---peacefulness, serenity, calmness---all emotions alien to this high-strung, fiery dynamo (yes, I think that accurately describes me).

I asked him if Buddhism was compatible with Christianity and he surprised me by saying, "Yes, and there is such a thing as a Buddhist Jesuit."

I think the attraction comes from what one practitioner has said:

"Christianity is long on content but short on method and technique. So I think Buddhism is providing Christians with practices, with techniques, by which they can enter more experientially into the content of what they believe."

Chaps knew I wasn't much of a drinker and asked me what I liked. "Sweet wines," I said.

"I have the perfect wine for you," he said, and he pulled out this tiny bottle from his cabinet and poured a small bit of golden liquid into a glass. "I think you'll like this." And every time I went over to his house after that, he would pour me a glass of Tokay.

Tokay is incredibly sweet. It's like drinking warm liquid raisins, for lack of a better description. I don't think I could drink enough to get drunk before I would get sick, but it was enough to "warm" me up, to shake my rigidness and inflexibility loose, to allow me to feel fellowship with others.

What I wouldn't give to have a glass of Tokay in Guam---and a mulligan.