I stated taking comedy improv at the People’s Imvrov Theater about six years ago. Then Zuki was born, and I stopped. The fire came back and I took a few more classes. Now I am at the Magnet Theater, Improv Level two class and I feel hooked again.
Improv has become a form of therapy to me. I forget to laugh sometimes for days, or maybe months. I am not counting a giggle-sigh at a joke. I wanted full body laughter, so I re-inserted three hours of mandatory laughs to my weekly schedule. I was scared of therapy, when I started thirteen years ago. Now I run to it. I was also scared of improv, now I am starting to understand it.
Last week we did an exercise on status. Two characters silently come on stage. One has to take low or high status position, and whatever she takes, the other player has to take the opposite. One has her shoulders back. So the other one, slouches low to the ground. It is instantly assumed by this language we speak, which one is which higher status and which one is of lower. But status is tricky. The one with shoulders back is reading the paper, NYT, probably. She has her nose up in the air. The other one is washing a window at a bus stop. But she keeps getting too close to the other player, making her move about the stage. The status has turned. It is the slouching player who has regained status. Our status is the ability to stay unaffected. If I don’t care what you are doing to me, I have higher status. If you are affecting me and making me crazy, you have higher status.
There is one guy in Park Slope who catches me off guard, each time. I don’t know him well, but I have to say hello because we have mutual friends. Our hellos have become a small chit chat about life and kids. I force a few questions out of myself to make small talk, and he does the same. After each time, I feel my lower status. Each time, I have to shake it off to regain my balance.
I saw him walking down the street toward me today. It was unavoidable, I saw him and he saw me. He had his usual, self-assured stride. I was sitting on a bench with my iPhone in hand. In my Food Cooperitive vest, to add to the situation. I was the working class of Park Slope in my outfit and he was merely shopping. How higher class of him. In fact, I have never caught him doing a shift at the Coop.
I will be unaffected by him, I thought to myself. He asked questions and I sat calmly in the same position, undisturbed by him.
“Blah Blah Blah. Ps 321. Blah Blah Blah.”
“Have a good day.”
I looked at him while he was talking, into his eyes, into his soul and asked, what is your deal? I saw fear in his eyes at one point, and I was surprised. At another point, I understood him and he understood me, just a little. For an instant, we liked each other.
It had nothing to do with status. I had nothing in common with him and the effort to meet him each other, made me aggravated.
Maybe after learning this lesson, I won’t run into him again.