Post 1: “Yes, and...”
Aryeh Myers (my collaborator on An Insomniac's Guide To Ambulances, brilliant writer and old friend) has got me doing one of those writing challenge things. I'm going to be posting something every day. Some of it will be true and some made up stuff, feel free to scroll on if you like! As I'm coming to it a day late there will be two today. Sorry. It'll be over in a month.
I recently participated in an improv event in Jerusalem where the facilitator ( Amir Atsmon ) took a traditional exercise to new heights. In the imaginary ball game, participants throw and catch – you guessed it – an imaginary ball. You can develop the game by agreeing that it’s a flaming ball of fire, or by involving multiple balls and freezing periodically to check that all of the balls can be visualised. Amir went to the next level with us, throwing a knife, chainsaw, kitten and baby into the mix. When he told us to freeze we had to identify the cat, the baby, the knife, the chainsaw and the ball within the group by looking at the poses and body language of the participants. It’s as freeing as it is challenging, you have to focus on what’s coming towards you but you can respond in an instinctive and immediate way. Insert metaphor for life here.
It reminded me of the way I read as a child, it was an entirely 3 dimensional experience and fed right into play, as if I was genuinely transplanted into fantastical lands having the adventures my friends and I were describing to each other. This was my early engagement in the improv mantra of “Yes, and...”
My grandfather was something of a storyteller and all of his eleven grandchildren grew up with the same favourite – The Dragon With The Red And Green Eyes. As well as his heterochromia (Google it) and the traditional fire-breathing, this dragon had scales of steel and very strong wings. He lived on an isolated island in the middle of a lake and spent his time threatening to turn people into toast and kidnapping the odd princess who had to be rescued by a prince with the help of a fairy godmother. I always imagined meeting the dragon and asking him why he used his amazing skills to hurt people when he could really be famous for protecting them. I worked through many versions of these conversations. The one where the dragon burned me into toast. The one where he cried and wished to change. The one where he said he would count to ten and if I wasn’t off the island by then a disaster beyond my imagination would occur. The one where I invited him to live with me. I wished for that most of all. Or maybe coming across a baby dragon that I could nurture into a loving and useful member of society.
Yesterday I saw two young boys playing a complicated game as they walked down the road. They were completely engrossed in their antics and you could hear them, their words tumbling over each other as they described their make believe world in more and more detail, shouting “Yes, and...!” I slowed the car down as they approached a nearby zebra crossing and they negotiated the road, one of them carefully cupping his hands together as if carrying a precious cargo, the taller boy protecting him with an outstretched arm. Staring at the smaller child clutching their imaginary pet, for one moment, I thought I saw a couple of protruding scaley legs and a wing, and a tiny puff of smoke.