The Improv Jungle
A few months ago, I trekked through the Amazon rainforest. Even there I found numerous IMPROV MOMENTS. I don’t mean performances by the Yamanami Tribal Harold Team. I mean moments that illustrate principals of improvisational theater that are also valuable life lessons.
1) “FOLLOW THE FEAR”
Del Close explained that the most interesting work is done when you go to the place that seems the most uncomfortable and psychologically the scariest. So… back in the jungle, at the beginning of our first walk, our guide warns us to BE EXTREMELY CAREFUL to avoid a small spider – the MAIDEN SPIDER. Guys, if you get bitten by a maiden spider you immediately get a two day erection. And, guess what else, IT’S THE LAST ERECTION YOU’LL EVER HAVE! You can bet the only way to continue down the rainforest path is to FOLLOW THE FEAR!
2) “IT’S ALL ABOUT LISTENING”
Nighttime in the jungle is very, very, VERY DARK! NO LIGHT AT ALL. We are on a NIGHT HIKE, each of us carrying a little flashlight. We agree to stop, to turn off our flashlights, and to stand very still for three minutes. Instantly, the thoughts, the fears (visions of maiden spiders), all that’s going on inside our own heads to take us out of the moment, is overwhelmed with the SOUNDS OF NATURE! Sounds so dense and diverse, so subtle and not so subtle, so seemingly infinite and never ending, that you are compelled to just listen, to listen deeply and completely. IT”S ALL ABOUT LISTENING!
3) “COLLABORATION, COOPERATION, AND TEAMWORK”
The Amazon rainforest floors are inhabited by millions of LEAFCUTTER ANTS foraging for leaves. About 50 million years ago leafcutter ants evolved a complex system of agriculture. In their nests, they cultivate crops of fungi that are the ants’ sole food source. Foragers cut pieces of leaves from trees, and carry pieces many times their own weight back to the nests, where other ants chew the leaves into a paste to feed the fungi. More ants are producing an antibiotic to control a mold that threatens to kill the fungi food source. Every ant has a specific role. It’s a real “yes, and…” operation, one that eminent biologist and ant expert E.O. Wilson asserts is an example of a force that is “responsible for the buildup of a great deal of the magnificent superstructure of the Earth’s biodiversity – collaboration.” COLLABORATION, COOPERATION, AND TEAMWORK.
So improv lessons are everywhere. As a game and a practice, it’s valuable to notice how and where improv shows up in your life everyday. That practice will come in handy because, well — IT’S A JUNGLE OUT THERE!
LEAFCUTTER ANTS IN THE AMAZON RAINFOREST