Improvisation and drama pedagogy

Young people in front of City Hall.

Being me in this moment

Making my future -and in tough situations -Improvising my future

Making my future projects intensive week in Latvia took place in August 2020. The key methods during the week were especially improvisation and drama. The participants got to know the world of impro in multiple workshops held both indoors and in the parks of Liepaja.

Young adulthood is the time of big possibilities and the time of great insecurity. Specially in these times – caused by covid-19 or different environmental crises – the world is going through a lot of changes. Our every-day-life can be turned upside down in few days by quarantines or other restrictions.

No matter what the situation in society is, during the time of emerging adulthood, one should find how to be you in this world, and who are you when the masks are taken off. We must face the insecure future of our own, even on our own. An important message is that even though we don´t know what will happen, we can function and survive throughout the situation. We can cope.

In difficult and uncertain situations, being comfortable improvising helps us cope better with that phase of life. In order to be able to proactively make your future, and to take advantage of the possibilities the world offers, you often need to improvise. So, improvisation is actually very important skill in life all in all.


Improvisation as a method

Improvisation is not about acting but about being you in this moment, as the moment arises. It can be terrifying as we face the unknown – for no-one can ever accurately predict the patterns of time, no one knows what will happen.

We attempt to predict the weather with thousands of sophisticated computers and often it is wrong. When we add into the mix our inner worlds, stirring in emotions, thoughts, ideas and sensations that spring uncontrollably up through us, no one can ever know.

This is the joy – and the terror – of improvisation. We can bravely go further into the process, losing control by thinking less and simply allowing ourselves to respond, to move, becoming more aware of ourselves in this present moment. As we do so, in a sense, we slow down time, moving our time frame into shorter and shorter moments, becoming more and more aware of the subtle, of the contents of the experience that we were going too fast to notice – until we are able to improvise perhaps a few seconds of experience in a performance of a minute, five minutes or even more. We open up to the possibility of slipping through the velvet curtains of time, into that which is greater, more expansive, into that which we all intuitively know but cannot put words to. In that eternal space we discover who we are at a deeper level.

Though we all eventually walk this journey into finding ourselves, each person’s path is totally and utterly unique. We cannot walk another’s path. We must be brave and walk our own. For we make the path by walking. Ahead is the unknown.

Courage in the horizon

We started our journey in the world of improvisation on the first morning of the intensive week. The participants had just met each other, and you could definitely feel the excitement and even a hint of anxiousness in the air, as we started to walk across the room at different speeds to get oriented in the room and other participants. After we had discovered the delicate bodily sensations of slow-motion walking, it was time to lie on the floor and focus on our breathing and scanning through our bodies to calm down. Body scan exercise helped us to breath freely and to raise better mind-body awareness.

After relaxation and the body scan, we did an evocative exercise to find some memory that was very pleasant to us. Then we shared our memories with a partner using pantomime. Performance was a strong experience for both performer and observer, and we got a chance to have a peak into each other’s lives and happy moments. Such an intensive and emotional way to connect to each other in a sensitive manner!

Improv game.For some, improvisation takes a lot of courage whereas others are relaxed and easy-going. In our workshop we talked about appreciating one another, and Julia, our guide towards the world of improv, helped us create a safe space. It can be a very deep experience, to feel safe in the uncertainty: we need the feeling of safety to be able to open up to ourselves and others.

Improvisation plays with the unknown

In the improvisation workshop we were dealing with chaos, vulnerability, and raw unprocessed emotions. When we improvise in front of another, we learn to be deeply vulnerable to others and to ourselves. We learn the skills of dealing within safe chaos, so that when we go out into the world (which by definition is chaotic, uncontrollable and unpredictable) we have tools, skills and abilities to find our way, the way that is the most in line with who we are.

As we discover ourselves, we can then be who we are on purpose, with confidence, knowing that we can cope with experiences as they arise. We also, as we progress along the journey, begin to understand and accept that who we are is constantly changing.

Young people relaxing on the floor.Who were you yesterday?

How are you in a supermarket? Is it the same as when you are at home, in school, in a hospital or in a party? There are so many different ‘me’s’.

There are so many ways to be in the world, but each, if it is to be healthy, full of growth and leading to a place of empowerment, needs responsibility. This word, ‘responsibility’ is about being able to respond to the ever changing world. Improvisation teaches us to ‘surf the wave’ of our experiences and our circumstances, it helps us to stay aware and leads to a deeper, more fulfilling life. Through improv we can always find the horizon even in stormy weather.