Saturday, January 17, 2009

A little more about magic.

OK, listen. I’ve stayed home sick for three days.

I think I’ve beaten it back—I decide to go the “isolate, rest and drink plenty of fluids” route instead of the usual “push myself, infect others and make sure the stupid cold sticks around for days” path I usually take. So it’s down to some sniffles. Haven’t even taken cold medicine today, and I can breathe through both nostrils.

I say this because I’ve probably written more in the last two days than I have all month. Maybe the last two months. It’s just that I’ve exiled myself and haven’t had a meaningful conversation of more than 20 with another human being for three days AND I AM BORED OUT OF MY SKULL. And so I'm writing...in an even more long-winded way than usual. I may go back next week and delete all of it. 

Getting back to the whole magic thing.

How it is that when we’re young improvisers and in new troupes we manage to achieve those moments of magic? If technique is really so important, how do relative n00bs make it work—if not consistently, at least enough to keep them going on and their audiences coming back? How does a bunch of high school improvisers achieve near-brilliance? Or players with a little bit of training get more laughs than troupes who’ve been together for years?

What is magic—and where the hell do you get it?

Here’s what I think, until I have a beer with someone who convinces me otherwise.

Talent: Del believed that anyone who could put a sentence together could be taught to improvise. But that not everyone who can improvise is worth watching. This is where magic trumps technique—you either have it, you have enough of it, or you just don’t. 

Vulnerability: Keith Johnstone said, “If you’re not willing to be changed, you might as well be working alone.” If you aren’t open to being affected by your partners, you close yourself off to magic.

But I think the most important thing is the simplest: Play. You have to put yourself in a place where you can just play.

It might be because because your audience is made up of your family members and 150 classmates who think you kick ass. Or because you’re on stage with people you trust completely—or friends you’ve known for years. But the easiest way to get to that place on a regular basis, as it turns out, takes the most work: You’re comfortable with technique. You’ve committed the games, forms and tools to muscle memory—you’ve stopped worrying about doing things wrong.

If you’re there to play, you might be a combination of relaxed and excited, filled with nervous energy and supremely confident. You feel it in the warmup…backstage…and the second the lights come up. You know it’ll be a good show, and it is.

Because of, you know, the magic.

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