Tuesday, August 26, 2014

My Matt Smith's Improv Intensive Experience by David Mielke

For the past few years I've been on a mid-life quest to do things I was afraid to do when I was younger.  I've worked for many years to reclaim aspects of myself that were shut down in childhood, due to having been perceived as an effeminate boy -- which was a bad thing to be in the 1960's backwoods Canadian town I grew up in.  I realize now that I wasn't really effeminate, I was just sensitive, and unfortunately at that time sensitivity was perceived as a girlish quality. The bullying I received had a squelching effect on me, and the pathway to freeing myself from the repercussions of that has been a long and winding one that has led to a desire to excavate my timid sense of humor.  I can see now how our humor is as personal and unique to us as our fingerprints, and how easily it can be shamed into hiding through childhood traumas.

I felt comfortable in Matt Smith's Improv Class Intensive right from the beginning when he explained his concept of "The FailureBow" -- a wonderful way of receiving affirming support when we do something we might otherwise have used to beat ourselves up with.  It gave me permission to try things and take risks with no negative repercussions -- just uplifting applause.  Matt also touched upon the therapeutic aspects of doing Improv; on how it can be another tool of self-discovery and healing, and that even though he wouldn't be putting an emphasis on that, a consciousness of the possibility of it was always welcome in the room.  Matt embodied a comfortableness in his own skin that helped me feel more comfortable in mine.  His  warm embrace of his own foibles and fumbles inspired me to hug mine a little more lovingly too.  He created a space where true spontaneous expression could feel safe to come out and play.

And play it did for the duration of the intensive!  I felt like I was on an emotional roller coaster. In the course of one three hour class I would go from feeling exhilarated to mortified to enthralled to foolish to free to stuck to triumphant to frustrated to up and down and all around and back through them all again.  It was thrilling to have that opportunity to be so present everyday; present to my own experiences on a moment-to-moment basis, and present to the privilege of witnessing the experiences of others.  All of us pushing boundaries together, all of us saying "yes! -- and!" to moving through our fears.  It was very bonding.  By the time we did our two performances we were truly a team in the best sense of the word, ready to jump in and support one another with no idea of where things might go. Truly improvising!  I am grateful to Matt and Freehold for the experience, and grateful to myself for having had the courage to do it.


Matt Smith will be teaching Improv at Freehold this coming fall.  For more information:

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