Reality Improv: Saying "Yes, And" All Day Long.
Sometimes we, as improvisers, are able to use what we’ve learned during improv classes and apply it to our offstage life. Alice has had just such an experience…
When I first dropped into Improv Marin in 2018, I had yet to know that “Yes, And” would become a huge part of my daily life. At that time I still hoped that the symptoms my husband of more than 40 years was experiencing were just due to aging or anxiety, however it soon became evident that dementia had arrived.
And with it came so many challenges, including an especially uncomfortable one. I had to constantly correct him. Until that day I remember so well. We sat at his computer ordering pieces for his new model train layout in Mill Valley. Yet he wanted to send the stuff to L..A where we also have a house, but spend less time. This made no sense, so I said, “No.” But as I watched a sad look descend on his face I suddenly thought, “Why not send the stuff south? It may not make sense, but it’ll make him happy.’” So I said, “Yes,” and watched his face light up.
That moment started what I now call “Reality Improv,” that took our life in a whole different direction. I began saying “Yes, And,” as long as it wasn’t criminal, life-threatening or going to bankrupt us. And because it’s improv, it also added fun to our days. Like when I found his sunglasses in the cooler at the beach, I just handed them over saying, “Look! Here are the missing sunglasses. They’re nice and cold. Just the way you like them!”
I use Reality Improv in the world, too, even with TSA. My husband was telling an agent that he always goes through the detector carrying his phone. I walked up holding a bowl and said with a smile: “Everything’s fine,” while I put the phone in a bowl and thanked the agent who gave me back a smile.
However, like theater improv, things aren’t always smooth. At a gorgeous, sprawling resort with transportation carts to whisk people around, my husband instead waved down a laundry cart full of dirty towels. He then told me to hop aboard. As my only option was to climb up on top of the towels, I didn’t move and I couldn’t think of anything to say. Fortunately, a transportation cart came speeding up to rescue us, proving the importance of “having someone’s back” in any kind of improv, even if it’s with a stranger. (Although, it would have been even better if Drew had also been able to show up as a waiter.)
I never thought to mention this again, so I was surprised when my husband remembered the incident saying, “I wonder why I told you to jump in that laundry cart.” I started laughing as he added, “That was funny, wasn’t it?”
“Yes,” I said, “It was very, very funny.”
© 2019 Alice Glasser
Alice Glasser is a member of the Improv Marin community who prefers her sunglasses at room temperature.
Do you have a story about how you were able to use improv skills offstage? We’d love to hear from you! Contact Kate James at email@example.com to submit a blog post on any improv-related topic. Or, a detailed description of the last cupcake you ate.