A fundamental idea that underpins Improvisation

When we become too “haunted” or influenced by our past – our habits and learned attitudes and behaviours can become standardised responses to present situations, and also the way we imagine the future. These standardised responses often have, at their basis, a motive to keep us physically, emotionally and/or spiritually “safe”. The past can therefore keep us safe. However, it can also stifle innovation, original,, “new” responses. Improvisation is essentially a process that involves pro-acting in the present. When we are past-influenced, we cannot pro-act as easily, as we find ourselves reacting to present situations by taking TIME (which can be moments) to find a past response that will serve us well in the present situation. This can often be sub-conscious.

Improvisation attempts to create a blank canvas; the paint brushes are clean, the water clear, the inspirational imaginations are new, and come from the now, not from pre-formed historical images.

Improv games can often act as a kind of “switch” that tries to turn off the past-based reactions, to not give them time, but putting us in the “Moment” through activities that require reactions that are so immediate to us that they become “proactions”. Proactions do not reach behind very far, they reach forward, using present based action to “pro”-act into the future.

One reflection on my use of the word “Haunt”. The idea that, when we attempt to be improvisational, we have to overcome the “ghosts” of past habits and attitudes that “haunt” our attempts at clear, present-mindedness, leads me to see improvisation as a method of exorcism.

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