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by Darren Held

And now a word (well, a few hundred words) from our Fearless Leader, Darren Held! Yay!

Anxiety in improv

Don’t hide your improv anxiety – transform it!

About three days a week, I wake up with a pang of anxiety about starting my day. What could happen, and what if it doesn’t go the way the film reel is running in my head? And what will people say about me when they see me in this state? Then I look to my cat, Moto, for answers. As usual, she is confident and self-consumed. Not much help. All this thinking and trying to change my anxiety usually makes things worse. Yet inevitably, once I start doing the numerous things running through my head, I’m fine. I’m present. I’m enjoying the productivity.

It’s Not Too Late…

I remember how anxious I used to get in my early improv classes. I’d be on the highway headed to L.A., watching every exit, thinking “You can still turn back and go home, it’s not too late”. Perhaps I’d had a bad day and thought it would be best not to share my freaky energy with everyone. Then I’d get to class, waiting my turn to go on stage, and I’d be eyeing the door (“It’s not too late, you can still slip out”). But you know what? I didn’t. And once I finally got on stage, I used that anxiety to my benefit. And that is a beautiful thing about improv comedy.

Energy, no matter where it’s stemming from, is energy. And energy is king in improv. So taking your anxiety and transferring it into a character can offer great richness to a scene. You can take your shaky, anxious self on stage and create an anxious character, and guess what – people will believe it! Because you are inhabiting the truth of that character. As long as your neurotic character reacts to the information in the scene through that point of view. Expressing that much needed emotion can also be extremely cathartic, and about $105 less per hour than a good shrink.

Energy Is Energy

When you don’t want people to notice your nerves, you stuff it down. Stuffing the energy down gets you in your head and makes things worse. You don’t always have to play anxious – you can use those nerves to create someone who is elated, horrifically depressed, or outrageously horny. Any of those grand feelings work when you realize that energy is just energy, and let it work for you.

You may even want to try it at the dentist.

By Darren Held

Darren Held
About Darren Held
Darren is the CEO and Creative Director of Held2gether, Improv for LIfe. He has been teaching and performing improv for 15 years, and has performed with H2g, the Groundlings, UCB and Second City. He loves Moto, red wine, and Madonna.

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