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by Darren Held

I noticed something in improv class on Saturday. We were doing an exercise where the students had to come up with tons of examples of spacework they could be doing in a specific location. Like, in a Starbucks, they could be making a latte, or cleaning children’s handprints off the display case, or refilling the half-and-half container.

Everybody did fine up to a point. Then their brains started to run out of things to do in Starbucks or wherever. At that point, they’d throw out a couple of repeats or examples that were only slightly different from the previous one. But then, after a couple of those, they started to come up with the more interesting ideas. And I realized that once you get to – and pass – the point of discomfort, something magical happens to free your mind.

A space shuttle scene had someone collecting tiny asteroids and storing them in a glass jar. A county fair scene had someone trying on clothes in the funhouse mirror. A bakery scene had someone giving cupcake tops to needy children. An auto repair shop had someone ripping the girly calendar off the wall. A beach scene had someone passing out seashells as gifts to passers-by.

That’s a great thing about improv. It forces you to use your brain in ways that don’t logically make sense to it. And, like a muscle, the more you exercise your brain the stronger it gets. So more and more things pop into your head as possibilities, and you don’t always have to work quite so hard to think of the next thing to say, do or be. But if you give up right when it gets difficult, it’s like only ever doing curls with a 3 pound weight. It’s not nothing, but you’re not going to gain strength by doing it.

Obviously, this kind of brain exercise helps with out-of-the-box thinking, brainstorming and problem-solving at work. But even more importantly, it helps you think of things to say to your busybody neighbor, ways to handle family get-togethers and, um, things to do at the beach now that throwing footballs and frisbees is illegal.

Want to exercise your brain muscle? We have just the ticket! A 4-hour Intro to Improv Intensive on March 11th. Come on out and play with us!

By Sonnjea Blackwell

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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