My name is Melinda Chilton.
I live in Los Angeles, where I have been studying, performing, and teaching improv for several years. I have a question for you to ponder.
Have you ever wished that when you woke up in the morning, there would be a script for your day lying next to your bed?
Wouldn’t you like to know exactly how to ask your boss for that raise, have a scene cleverly written to humor your roommate into taking out the garbage once in a while, maybe a list of the people and characters you will be dealing with that day? Well, that’s not exactly how life works. Life is one big improv and you are the star improviser.
Improvisation in the performing arts is a spontaneous art form that requires no script or prior preparation. Studying the art of improvisation can free a performer from nerves, self-judgment and allowing the artist to truly trust their talents and instincts. Many actors, musicians, stand-ups, and speakers use the basic rules of improv to strengthen their craft. But, the benefits of improv go far beyond the stage. Improv skills can also help an artist better communicate with their agents and managers. Improvisation is a strong tool used when collaborating with a creative team. Most importantly, improv in life can reduce stress, build self-esteem, and raise your level of joy.
After studying, performing, and teaching improv for several years, I started to realize that I wasn’t just using the rules of improvisation on stage to entertain an audience, I was also using those same improvisational rules daily in my personal life. ‘Give and Take’, ‘Listen’, ‘Be in the Moment’, ‘Be Willing to Let Go and Change’ are just a few basic improv rules that I use daily.
My Father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s several years ago. I have personally found myself using improvisational skills to help me better care for my Father. The improv rule, ‘Yes and’, has helped me to accept that my Father has Alzheimer’s and doesn’t always know who I am. Acceptance is a powerful tool. Once my family was able to accept my Father’s illness, we were then open to making choices that could better serve him and our family.
My Father is a retired real estate agent. His Alzheimer’s often makes him believe he is still selling real estate, his kitchen is his old office, and I am his secretary. The initial response was to tell my Father he was wrong. He is not a realtor anymore and I am not his secretary. I am his daughter. This approach only created additional frustration, stress, and hurt feelings. Instead of denying my Father’s current reality, improv has taught me to accept it and add something to it. Ok, today my Dad is a realtor. I am his secretary. We are going to write up a sales contract and I will present it to the buyer first thing in the morning. Now my Father and I are connecting, communicating, and having a little bit of fun.
The improv game ‘New Choice’ helped me to overcome a childhood stutter. I stuttered the first 29 years of my life. There were some sounds and words that were more difficult for me to pronounce than others. Improv taught me to think quickly and use substitution during conversations. For example, The letter ‘M’ was difficult for me to pronounce. If I was about to ask someone for ‘money’, I would quickly substitute the word ‘money’ for another word that was easier for me to say. I would ask for ‘cash’. My stuttering was a result of painfully low self esteem. Improv slowly helped to build my self-confidence. I learned to trust my instincts and discovered talents and strengths I never knew I had.
The good news is anyone can learn basic improv skills. Like any skill, they just need to be practiced, strengthened, and implemented. That’s what we do in my “IMPROV FOR LIFE” classes and workshops.
During COVID, I began teaching my classes on Zoom. The response has been terrific. Yes, the human connection can definitely be made on the internet. There is a lot of improv that can be taught and performed virtually. My online classes have students in different time zones and countries. One of my students referred to the friendships made in my online classes as modern day penpals.
Recently I have also begun teaching private improv sessions on Zoom. Virtual privates are very convenient. As a teacher, it allows me to really zero in on the exact needs of an individual student and help them strengthen the improvisational skills that will benefit them the most.
Expect a visit from special guest teacher, Andy Goldberg, author of “Improv Comedy” and director of “Off the Wall”, the longest performing improv group in Los Angeles.
Best of all, learning improv is a lot of fun and a lot of laughs.
If you’re interested in learning more about how you can improve your life and career with improv, please visit my website. And all of the abilityE family I have acting improv classes.