3 years ago this day, on a Sunday Feb 1st, was my improv theater Yours Truly Theatre (YT) workshop graduation play.
Let me back up a little bit. It was already few months joining YT, after waiting for 2 months to join itself. I have gone through the basic training, including both theory (yeah !) and lot of practice. Sometimes when I have mentioned that I have done theater, people have asked if I am a born actor or the next __ (fill in your favorite hero). It is hard to explain improv for those who don’t know it. It is a different beast, but that’s not what attracted me first. I just needed to do something, learn something, and entry bar for anything else (either in terms of talent or to get to do professionally) is quite high. Thanks to the workshop, and the commitment (that’s all the YT chiefs Ranji and Nandhini demanded, the commitment .. you can look at this similar to the famous Infy entrance test containing Shakuntala Devi puzzles. It is the attitude that mattered at YT, aptitude would come with rigorous practice and, you guessed right, commitment).
Commitment I gave. Drove 30 kms each way on a weekends. Never missed a session. Was always on time. Thought about everything deeply. Kept thinking about it all through the week. Oh wait, that was the bestest part. I realized, I smiled more during the week – either by remembering something that happened previous week, or imagining how I would take a real situation back to theater next weekend. 5 days of week was lived waiting for the two days of weekend. Or in other words, 5 days were sailed through the energy I derived from the first two days.
It became addictive. I was not alone. Laughter, mutual praise, accomplishment, self confidence and the ocean of all rivers, happiness itself give rise to a high, that can be quite addictive.
Various basic and slightly advanced skills of improv theater were taught and practiced well. My memory beats me with every minute detail, but I so wished I documented while I did it. Too much stuff was on my plate then (applying for MBA being one) and blog was neglected. One particular activity, I had already read on a blog (of a previous workshop attendee) and knew that it would be coming. It was about throwing a sorrow baggage. I knew the exercise, and felt this would not work, and I would not feel it. But, slowly, like a good movie touches you and turns you around without you even realizing it, at some point, during Ranji’s directions it worked. It worked despite my resistance, despite logic, despite my strength. I surrendered.
I started writing long mails to the group outpouring my thoughts. Set up the newsletter blog and helped editing. I continued reviewing our group’s play, now that I knew little more from inside, it was more clear to see how hard the actions itself are, and how less I used to see as a reviewer. (As my princi once said, which is my one of the favorite quotes, on the lines “Do everything..you may not get anything out of it, but you will realize what takes to do it”. )
Let me cut to the chase. Just before the workshop play, we did an exercise of performing only in gibberish without using any words. That was a nice way to know, how limited we will become without spoken words. We needed to come up with simple stories, and also emphasize that our communication is reaching the audience (so far we only focused on story, as the communication is taken for granted). Plus everything was humor in YT, that added additional challenge.
Come workshop graduation play day, some of the previous stories (created in the above exercise) were picked up and Nandhini magically filled stuff and made them into a complete play or 10 or so minutes. On the day of play, we rehearsed from morning (around noon or little before noon, I think) for a play at 7 PM. Thanks to a person’s absence (not confirmed yet), I got to fill in for him and thus had two plays.
One about an airplane travel, that gets into complications. Other was a family conflict between husband and wife. I could get into more details, but that’s futile (and my memory is also not strong). The facts that I got to act in two plays, worked with two teams, had unlimited fun, laughed, laughed and laughed ; missed lunch (when one team went on lunch, I was rehearsing with other team , vice-versa), was physically active (yeah, theater is physically exhausting) for extended period of time are more important for me to note. It was great and I thank all responsible for that – my team mates, my YT mates, audience and of course, Ranji and Nandhini. It was probably one of the happiest days of my life.
Take a small break and think about that sentence. No, think about one of your happiest days in life. Now come back. Now you know.
Wait,there is more. In one of the plays, I get hit by my wife ( she being my good friend, I did take the hit I guess) and I die. I guess there was a gap at this point during which I lay dead (not sure if this was the time play broke to get audience inputs for the ending). Sometime much later, when there was a need for introduction, the audience member said she knew me – I was “the best dead husband” she said. I guess that was one of my best moments at YT. For the person who joined theater with lot of self doubts, if at the end, he is remembered and complimented for one act – there is no bigger fulfillment or a better graduation certificate. It was probably casual; probably that she was nice and complimented everyone; probably everyone got complimented; probably it was nothing, too small. But for me, it was THE moment that I would recall and smile forever.
After the plays, there was a feedback session. It was good and all, but there was a problem that I wanted it to end quick and I could head home. No, not that I was hungry. For some reason, surprisingly, I did not feel hunger at all – this during a time I was very regular and strict in my diet. But I had a deadline that day for a MBA application.
Usually, I finished and submitted all MBA applications by my mid-night in India even though the deadline is probably mid-night in US time, but didn’t want to take the risk. That day or night, however there was no way I could submit the application by deadline. Reason ? It was almost 11 (I think..) when we finished and I reached home by 11:30ish. And I had essays to write/complete/review. Don’t even ask me, why did I wait to complete this application until the last day. For the only school I had followed for 2 years, and one of my most hopeful and probable schools. The only one I had researched well. But I still had not finished the essays. There was no way I could even finish the application process, forget writing essays in that left time.
So, I decided to take it easy. Still riding high on the energy wave of the completed rehearsals and plays, I wrote the essays. Well into the night. With clear thoughts, more determination, and just positive wishful attitude, I wrote the essays. Submitted the application around early morning. Got a couple of hours of sleep and went back to work. Yes, such was the energy in me. I felt invincible.
Rest, as I say, is history. I got admitted to the school I applied that night. I joined it and got an MBA. (oh , two tiny performances got noticed too, next post is about one of them).
3 years ago, this day.