For several years, we’ve had Q&A sessions with our audiences after opening night shows.
We get some of the questions you might imagine (“how long have you been improvising?”, “what do you do when you can’t think of anything to say?”, etc.)
But one of the company’s favorite questions is:
“How has being an improviser affected your life OFF the stage?”
I think we enjoy that question so much because often hear stories from our fellow players that we’ve never heard before.
To answer that question, I shared an experience in a recent Q&A, and I thought I’d share with you.
I was heading home after a show, and noticed the gas gauge was pretty low. So I stopped at a gas station, started filling up and walked inside to get some water (improvising is a very thirsty business).
Next to the checkout counter was a disheveled man in a wheelchair. And it was readily apparent, even from a distance, that hygiene wasn’t a high priority in his life.
Not exactly the sort of person you’d be hoping to meet in a gas station at 11pm.
He smiled and said hello – I smiled and said hi back, and started my purchase.
The disheveled man then said, out of the blue:
“HEY! I’ve got an idea! I’ll distract the clerk and you make a run for it!”
In my pre-improv life, I’d probably have said nothing, or given the comment a smile or courtesy laugh.
But my improv instincts took over (as they often do), and I yes-anded the gentleman:
“Sounds great – why don’t you ask him about ice prices…DAMN! The clerk overheard us! How about next time?”
The disheveled gentleman laughed, and the clerk laughed.
I completed my purchase, and starting walking out.
The disheveled man spoke again and said:
“You’re not from around here, are you?”
Well, true enough. I was born 3/4 of a continent away, but I didn’t think it was something someone could tell by just looking at me.
“No, I’m not. How did you know?”
And the disheveled man said three words:
“Because you’re nice.”
The rapid-fire emotion-flood that hit me right then ranged from guilt over my first impression of this gentleman,
to sympathy for all the times he’d been ignored,
to joy that I was able to add a bit of fun and connection to someone
who had no better place to go on a weekend than a gas station convenience store.
I still stop in to that gas station occasionally after shows, and I’ve seen my new friend a couple of times.
For the record, we’ve never successfully distracted the clerk, and I’ve never “made a run for it”.
There’s always next time.
So – how has improv affected my life off the stage?
More ways than I can count, but it’s let me talk to people I’d never imagine talking to, connect with people I’d never imagine connecting with, and find surprising bits of fun in the least likely of places.
I’ll share more stories from our show Q&A sessions in the future, but for now I’m curious to know – even if you’re not a performer, has improv affected your life?
If so, I’d love to hear about it – drop me a line using the form below!
If not, the next time you’re out shopping see if you can offer to help someone “make a break for it” – it just might change both your lives.
BATS Artistic Director