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by Darren Held

by Sonnjea Blackwell

I’m in that annoying improv place called Plateauville. That’s the place that you come to after you pass through Upswing Alley, and before you venture briefly into Downhill Slide.

I’ve been doing improv long enough to know that there are times where I seem to make marked improvement and finally nail concepts, ideas, skills – whatever you want to call it – that I’ve struggled with for ages. Sometimes those periods are brief, other times they last longer… sometimes long enough to give me hope that Upswing Alley will continue, unabated, forever.

Silly Sonnjea. Nothing lasts forever. At some point, I can’t continue to improve at the same rate – or perhaps at ANY rate. My brain is all full, and it takes time for all that new stuff to sink in and truly be assimilated. That’s when I coast into Plateauville for an undetermined stay.

Plateaus aren’t bad; they’re sort of a rest stop where all that new knowledge gets sorted out and stored away. Sometimes, the sorting and storing is confusing, and while you are working at owning your new knowledge, some of your old knowledge seems to slip out of your grasp. Things you never struggle with are suddenly difficult. That’s the dip into Downhill Slide.

Downhill Slide is unsettling because it can affect your confidence, making you question whether you’ve ever actually TRULY learned anything. Once you’ve experienced Downhill Slide a couple times, however, you can train yourself not to let it get in your head. Accept where you are, and don’t beat yourself up for it. And don’t fret – your old knowledge doesn’t leave permanently!

Accepting where you are does NOT mean you aren’t working to get back to Upswing Alley, of course. You still need to work to apply your new knowledge and integrate it with your old knowledge. And if you can do that without getting frustrated with yourself and your teacher and your classmates, you will find yourself in Upswing Alley much more quickly.

And don’t let Plateauville get too comfortable, either. Sometimes after pushing yourself really hard, a little rest is necessary. But getting comfortable and complacent is no way to do good improv. Good improv depends on the edginess of being out of your comfort zone… So take a moment to catch your breath in Plateauville, but don’t dawdle there because Upswing Alley is just around the corner.

Enjoy your improv road trip!

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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