The iO Chicago Telepathic Improv Experience
In 1969, at The Committee in San Francisco, Del Close was running a daytime workshop for non-company members. One day, Del came in with a “loopy” idea: an experiment in what he was just starting to refer to as “group mind.” One person would leave the room and the others, in her absence, would hide an object somewhere in the theater. Del directed us to focus on the hidden object, visualizing it in the hiding place. The person would come back in and, well… mostly the experiment didn’t work. But the couple times it did work was proof enough for Del, that as the Beatles were telling us then, “I am he as you are he as you are me And we are all together.” The “non-believers” in the room scoffed and wondered: “What’s this guy on?” To those of us who trusted Del, we knew the answer – methedrine! We also knew that, to Del, this experiment was not random, it was part of his search for improvisers on stage to learn to communicate and connect as a “group mind.”
Cut to end of August, 2014, in Chicago. Del’s long time partner, Charna Halpern threw a party to celebrate the opening of the new home of iO Improv. Under one roof were four theaters (iO’s main stage is “The Del Close Theater”), numerous class room spaces, a big bar, an event space, a beer garden. The two nights of shows, performed by talented iO alumni trained by Charna and Del over a period of thirty years, was STATE-OF-THE-ART LONG FORM IMPROVISATION. Playing together, many for the first time in a very long time, these improvisers transformed the space – creating alternate realities, jumps in time and space, character transformations, inventing a narrative together on the fly. So connected! Like they were reading each other’s thoughts. Like… TELEPATHIC!
And remembering that long ago workshop experiment, I thought: “Del, it worked!” In this new amazing space, it felt like his spirit was there, enjoying the success of that “dumb” 1969 workshop experiment, and watching his students on the stage, the connections they were making, and the audiences laughing and loving every single second. Del’s “hunches” are science now: Here’s an article on latest research on “telepathy and the brain.”