San Antonio improv friendly to newcomers and veterans alike

You can find improv all around San Antonio at places like ComedySportz, Studio 185, and even on campus at the hands of Fiscally Responsible and The Carefree Radicals. Now, if you already know you like it, and you’re looking to try it out, most Sunday nights at the Overtime Theater you can find an improv workshop to walk in on.

Last semester, by suggestion of a couple friends, I went to a workshop and the next thing I knew, it’d become a weekly pastime.  The experience was awkward, challenging, fun and exciting — overall, a completely engaging activity.  The skills you learn in improv are applicable to the day to day conversations you have.

I don’t know the ins and outs of improv.  No, this is an article about what it can do for someone who is willing to say ‘yes.’  Yes, this may be a cliche — even the whole plot of a movie starring Jim Carrey, but it was all I really knew about improv, and it really can be helpful. For example, when you chose a character or action, you must commit to it and stand by it.  Improv has been a sort of biweekly therapy.  I show up with however I’m feeling and just let it go and become whoever I must.

The people at these workshops are old and young, men and women, loud and quiet, teachers, actors and students.

The workshops are generally exercises and games that aim to work on different communication skills by imposing limitations on your physical and verbal options.  During my first workshop, we focused on getting comfortable expressing emotions, communicating.

A part of that is embarrassing — many of these games force you to do things you would never do in real life.

The numbers game stands out most in my memory: two people go up on stage and can only speak in consecutive numbers, but still have to convey a full conversation.  This restriction focuses your attention and efforts into the emotion and intention of what you are saying rather than the words themselves — which serves as a testimony to how much we can say without words.

Most recently, Tina Jackson and Dan Grimm, who recently relocated to San Antonio from Chicago, expertly led our class. During this workshop, we worked on playing from assumptions, where you assume a relationship and act on it without stopping to explain the context – much like we do in real life. Internal edits, where, without mentioning, you and your partner must become different characters in a new scene as smoothly as possible; and Tag-outs, like a real-life Family Guy cutaway, you have people from outside the scene step in momentarily to provide .  The whole lesson really emphasized committing to a character with strong values and emotion, and making firm decisions as that character. Communication, with both the audience and your scene partner, are critical as well.

I cannot tell you what I’ve specifically learned from doing improv, but I know it’s helped.   I feel more comfortable meeting people, I’m developing a bank of characters for whenever they may be needed, and I’m more affirmative. Everyone should try improv, even if it’s just once —   it’s something that ought to be experienced.  And if you’re worried you’re going to embarrass yourself, you’re right.  Go to a show and see for yourself, not everything is done well, but it’s all part of it.

And that’s the interesting thing about improv: failure isn’t just built-in, it’s a crucial part of the learning process. If you’re looking for good improv, check out troupes like Kismet, Tina and Dan’s improv duo; Missed Opportunity, an all female troupe featuring several current and past Trinity students; or First Time Offenders, “The improv group at Trinity University.”

All of them post regularly about events on Facebook so make sure to check it out and get involved.