Improv #3: Always Look on the Bright Side of Life?

The bully in my brain hasn’t yet wised up and rescinded the strange exemption that it seems to have granted to Improv, but the migraines have.

The previous week was a five-out-of-seven migraine days week. This week has been the same. That’s 5 days * 2 weeks equals 10 migraine days. If this continues next week, I will squeak into chronic migraine territory for September while well-managed medically. While this has been my norm for much of my life, it hasn’t been for a while.

There certainly have been other months with good control wherein I have managed 15+ symptomatic days. If I do hit that magic number for September, it won’t be the first time. I’m sure it won’t be the last. I haven’t forgotten years of coping skills simply because I currently average four or five symptomatic days monthly if I manage my self-care, medications for all my conditions, and environmental triggers.

With a many-day migraine, there is a limbo stage wherein I am “in one” enough to not be able to re-trigger one, but I’m not fully in the icepick-in-the-brain pain stage. My senses are heightened, I’m nauseous, I’m sound sensitive in addition to light sensitive, but I’m probably not going to go back into pain again just from my own stupidity. I can’t add a second migraine on top of my first.

I was in that point at Improv last week. We practice on the theater stage, but not with theater lighting. It had never occurred to me that the generic non-fluorescent lighting in class wasn’t the norm during shows. Intellectually, I knew theaters were dark for the audience, but bright for the actors. I did know spotlights existed. I had just never associated that knowledge with something I needed to be personally concerned about.

Our teacher encourages us to go to shows, which are free for students, and especially the Slam sessions. Slam sessions are like open-mic poetry nights: live-audience practice opportunities for the students. (Technically, anyone can join, but, in reality, only students seem to volunteer.) You get to play off of the Troup members, so it’s kind of awesome.

The first part of the show, where only the professionals perform, involves musical improve, props, and things clearly more advanced than anything I’ve done in class, but the second half is traditional Improv games. While not ones I’ve specifically experienced in class, the Troup members explain the rules enough that they feel like ones I could have tried in class. They feel doable.

I volunteered last week, and I ended up on stage with an actual spotlight. Some migraineurs are only photosensitive when they have an attack. Some migraineurs are triggered by light. Guess which one I am? I was effectively blinded up there. I couldn’t make out the audience over the understage lighting (though that was probably for the best since it meant I couldn’t read their reactions and freeze up if they didn’t respond to my scene!)

I also couldn’t really see my scene partner. I had to make staying uncomfortably close to him part of my character. Guess who portrayed a creepy old uncle in her first live performance? (My partner said it was “funny for the rest of the audience, but a little disconcerting for me because you looked so natural playing a creep.”)

The scene was a lot of fun, though I’d like to think I’d have been a little less cliché in my choice of character if I hadn’t been half-blind the whole time. I may appreciate low-brow humor, but, apparently, I expect myself to be able to get a laugh without using it as a crutch? Because going for the low-hanging comedy fruit would be too easy?

I had no intention of performing when I started. Yet, I’m saying things like “I apparently hold myself to higher standards when I perform” like there will be a second time.

I’m in a beginner class. I can only take higher-level classes or perform at non-open-mic nights with instructor/Troup permission. It’s probably unlikely I’ll ever get to be good enough for the photosensitivity/blindness on stage to matter.

I’m immensely frustrated by it anyway. It was fun up there, but if I didn’t already have the migraine, would the light have triggered it? Would it be worth it anyway? Why am I asking these questions as a newbie just taking the class for “professional development?” Do I get to be less hard on myself for my first character being a bit cliché since I’m watching Whose Line is it Anyway episodes while I write this, and Colin Mochrie just portrayed an even creepier uncle?

I volunteered again later in that same show, thinking it would be another Improv game. The second time it didn’t turn out to be a game at all. I ended up volunteering for a round robin stand up. Now, we absolutely have not told any traditional jokes in our class yet. In fact, we’ve been encouraged to go for authenticity and clean pantomime work first, because trying for explicit jokes without the foundations would look forced. (It probably also wouldn’t be good for business, as it would probably scare off customers like me!)

We had to finish the line “185 ______ walked into a bar. The bartender said we don’t serve ______ here…” Audience members volunteered each performer’s ______ . So, on that note:

185 hard-boiled eggs walked into a bar. The first bartender looked at his partner and said, “Oh, no, we’re going to be scrambling all night.” His partner replied, “I have faith in us. Just keep looking on the sunny side up…”

Also, do we think the fancy migraine glasses I have so far refused to pay for would help me if I gave in and bought them? They cost as much as the whole Improv class itself, but I’d prefer to avoid having to look on the “bright side,” thank you!

(986 words)

Need a recap of anything I’m talking about in any post? Check out the Glossary of Terms.


5 thoughts on “Improv #3: Always Look on the Bright Side of Life?

  1. Migraines are the worst kind of pain ever!!!! I feel like most people just do not understand! It is so difficult to live in constant pain and still maintain a normal life. I am sorry for what you deal with. I live with pain because of Multiple Sclerosis. I was diagnosed 16 years ago but, I am still trying to see the positive in life. I will admit, it is hard some days. I have been able to connect with so many people through this blog that really understand and it has been so helpful. I have set a goal for myself that I will achieve because I am stubborn and determined. I am going to one post every day for at least one month! I hope if you choose to follow my blog, you will enjoy! I look forward to more of your posts! Take care!

    Liked by 2 people

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