Warrior Words: Improvised nostalgia
Senior year of high school is synonymous with the act of grappling: loose ends, soft beginnings, hard ends, and unknown fates. Yet for me, the most difficult thing to grasp is that next November, I won’t be trying out for Freeplay Improvisation and that next February, I will not be performing my favorite form of theater alongside my best friends.
Being nostalgic about improvisation is rather dichotomous; to try to pinpoint, and reflect on, the fleeting feelings that develop in the artistic void of the present moment is as laughable as trying to explain to others why I have to practice improvisation three days a week when there’s no script involved.
Yet since beginning Freeplay four years ago, I have found that a meticulously crafted script and plotted character study are not necessary components of meaningful art; instead, we pause, listen, and react as humans, often flawed and imperfect, but honest. You are left to grasp at the inspiration in the placid air surrounding the glare of the dusty spotlights, protected by an intimate group of peers who are just as hungry as you are.
Improvisation teaches you that deliberate attempts to be funny are the death of comedy. Laughter is a microcosm of acceptance, something that every improviser and human alike crave. Yet despite an innate desire to be viewed as humorous, comedy stems from truth. When a scene is contrived, such as when a character is pre-planned prior to a scene, it is painfully uncomfortable to watch one person selfishly attempt to make themselves look good at the expense of their partner. There’s something so beautiful about a genuine eagerness to create with and learn from others, despite its outcome. While I am much more fallible and much less talented than I care to admit, improvisation has made me unafraid of rejection (a mind-set that will definitely become useful during the college admissions process!).
There’s a distinct aura in WHS’s choir room, our backstage dressing area. Before each show, we perform age-old rituals passed down from our theatrical ancestors as we embrace the present. The plain room is sacred in its familiarity, acting as the final common ground before we launch off into the unpredictable oblivion together. It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact feeling that arises when you’re standing in front of hundreds of people under a glaring spotlight with a blank slate, expected to execute intelligent comedy — I should be petrified. My scene may be deafening; it may be silent. Yet whatever happens, I am never alone. Improvisation culminates in vulnerability, yet I never have felt so in control.
A selfish part of me feels like Freeplay is graduating with me this year; I can definitively say that nothing has been as formative on my character as growing with the program since its beginnings my freshman year. Yet I know that as I take my final bow with my best friends on February 4, I will be leaving behind something truly beautiful for a new class of students to cherish just as much as I have. There’s no doubt in my mind that Freeplay Improvisation and our director, Heather Delude, are Wilton High School’s greatest assets.
Skyler Addison is a senior at Wilton High School. She shares this column with four classmates.