We never do anything well till we cease to think about the manner of doing it.
William Hazlitt, as quoted by Tim Orr
Tim began our 3-day intensive improv workshop with this quotation. He explained that this workshop was not about "getting it right." Rather, he explained, this was about the process, the work. As I tackled the monumental task of showing intense action sequences in improvised theater with a group of performance-level improvisers, I began to shed some of my concerns about "getting it right." I allowed myself permission to see the experience as an opportunity to experiment... to engage in scenework I had previously thought might be impossible for me as an actor on stage using only space-object props and locations. This weekend's training was a game-changer for me as a performer; Tim's reminder about the process was grounding on a multitude of levels.
In the classroom, I hope and expect that I urge my students to embrace this philosophy. The process of education should be seen as a journey rather than as a series of products. My students should be honest with themselves about the challenges they face, and my work with them should guide them through genuine learning. Rather than faking that they understand something, rather than punishing themselves for failure, I want my students to feel proud of their work through the struggle of learning.
And then there is the joy of learning: the delightful, unexpected moment; the laugh with one's peers; the mastery of something one has worked on and to which they have dedicated a sustained effort. Improv brings this joy into the classroom. As does reading. And singing. And playing with numbers. And, and, and. A classroom should be a place of work, of accomplishment, of challenge, of pleasure.
Thank you for the reminder, Tim. Our learning is not about a collection of things. Nor is it about what comes easily. Learning (the art of improvisation, of reading, of ____), is about working through what is difficult until it becomes second nature. As my students learn to write their letters or show a funny face in front of the whole class, I am struggling through the process of how to show a character riding on a horse-drawn carriage along a winding, mountainous road...as another character jumps from the rope hanging off of a hot-air balloon basket. We all tumble into the space-object ravine below the cliff edge, dangling over the precipice of what is both horribly difficult and delightfully worthwhile as performers. Through this struggle, I experience the joy of learning. And doing.
Tim Orr performs and teaches at BATS Improv in San Francisco; he performs in various other groups as well, including 3 For All. The course I referred to in this post was "Advanced Wheres/Action Intensive", a 3-day intensive offered for a private group in Marin County, CA.