Back in 1989 when I first started studying improv, I wanted to get all the materials I could get my hands on to read about my art. There was a used bookstore on Clark Street in Chicago. I wandered in there looking for improv books. I remember thinking how strange that they put the improv section right next to the occult section, rather than next to the theater section.
There is something mystical about improv. There is something that extends beyond our senses when we are on an improv stage. We're getting outside of our heads, and our bodies to connect with other people. We're dealing with something bigger than ourselves. If you are not a mystic, then this thing that were talking about can just be a connection with another human being. If you are mystic, or open to believing that there are things that we cannot know, improv gives may us a glimpse into that world.
When using a Ouija board everyone must touch the planchette on the middle of the board. If you believe in spirit world, then this is a signal to the spirits that we are ready to begin. If you don't believe in the spirit world, then we are all together acting upon the planchette and letting it go where it needs to go as decided by no one, and everyone. If you're a nonbeliever, then this is an exercise in letting go. If one person tries to control it, it's no fun. If your believer, this is a exercise about connecting into something bigger than yourself. Maybe, that's what it is for the nonbeliever too. Using a Ouija board is about your connection to something besides yourself whether it be the spirit world or the energy of everyone else at the table. Either way it can feel mystical.
In researching this blog, I found that there are more similarities than I thought between a Ouija board and improv. For example,
With a Ouija Board you should:
- Never ask if it's "working". This is negative energy which interferes with the process.
- You not try to decipher the words while the planchette is still moving. Your role is to close your eyes and focus on the energy.
- You should not ask joke questions. This can offend the spirits.
- And if you are experiencing depression when you are working the Ouija board it may draw 'malevolent spirits".
When you are improvising:
- You shouldn't be thinking about "Am I getting laughs", or "Is this funny?".
- You shouldn't try to be figuring out "What is the scene about" while you're still doing the scene. Your role is to have eye contact and focus on the energy.
- And just like the Ouija board, you should never go for the joke (make fun of the scene that you're in) because this could offend the audience or your fellow players.
- You also need to leave your negative energy backstage, or better yet on the street in front of the theater, you don't want to accidentally breathe life into a scene or character that you would take offense to in real life.
So maybe that bookstore wasn't wrong by putting the improv books right next to the occult section. I do believe that if you are improvising, and truly present, that you do get in touch with an objective reality. When I'm on stage I'm constantly destroying the ideas in my head to make sure that I am present in the ultimate reality on stage. And, maybe that's what mysticism is all about.