• Steven Morgan

Getting back into improv after taking a break

The last few months have been weird. Our lives have been collectively changed in ways that most of us have never experienced before. For some, these have been bigger than others, and relatively, I've had it easy. Aside from a few cancelled trips, I've been able to work from home, sustaining an income and since March I have been doing just that.

At first, the forced experience of slowing down and spending time at home was a hugely welcome change. Though I hadn't realised it, working full time and travelling around the country in the evenings for shows had been taking its toll on me. I'd gotten so used to being in a state of exhaustion, that I had forgotten what normal was supposed to be like.

With no option but to slow down, I embraced the change in pace and saw this as a great opportunity to catch up on all of those projects I'd been putting off doing as I didn't have the time. I was sleeping well, I was spending more time with my loved one,s and was finding that my mental health was taking a real turn for the positive.

This continued for some weeks, with my motivation pushing me to create and try new things too. I started developing new routines, with the only occasions where I'd leave home would be to go to the supermarket or to get some exercise. There was a comfort in the routine, a safety in the predictability of it all. We couldn't plan for the future as regulations were changing all the time, all we could do was to make the most of the time we had. We had no choice in all of this.

Over time, however, the things which made the circumstances appealing in the first place were becoming annoyances. Life is about balance, and when you lean too far in one direction, the strain eventually takes its toll. I knew that the change in pace was useful, but the fact was, it wasn't up to me, this was how things had to be. I began to become irritable, feeling the absence of the things in my life which weren't there and which make me happy. I became less appreciative for what I did have and focused more on what I couldn't have. As time went on, it dawned on me that these restrictions weren't something where we just had to put our heads down until they were over, but measures with no discernable end-point in sight. This was the new normal, and I had to find a way to accept that.

I felt anxiety at the idea of deviating from my new routine. My confidence had deteriorated and my motivation to change things again was lacking. Everything felt harder in this new version of the world. Wearing masks, washing hands, keeping distance from others. I knew it was for the greater good, but any deviations felt irresponsible when staying home was always an alternative option. It was easier to stay in my cave. These weren't thoughts I vocalised to others, I knew that I was still in a massively privileged position, but ones that were going through my head.

After a while of letting these thoughts get the better of me, I eventually realised that the only way I was going to gain some sort of semblance of balance was to go against these instincts and get back out there in some way. I decided it was time to return to real-life rehearsals with easylaughs.

I felt nerves at that first rehearsal that I haven't felt doing improv for a long time. I could feel the rustiness of my social skills in general, let alone being able to keep up with the quick thinking of the others. Pretty much the only non-work conversation I'd had for months were comparisons of life in these Corona times. It was a script I knew well, but one that had its limits. I felt paranoid that I was going to struggle to relax my mind and be in the moment.

The moment we began warming up, all of those fears immediately fell away. It was as though no time had passed at all as we progressed through our exercises. It felt exhilarating to get back into it, to laugh unguardedly, to forget at that moment that anything had changed at all. It was a welcome break from reality.

In retrospect, I can see that all of my feelings and fears feel disproportionate and excessive, but at the time, they were very real to me. As much as my logical mind tried to tell me that this is how things would turn out, the temptation to retreat was strong. It did me a lot of good embracing a part of my life that brings me a lot of joy. The euphoria of feeling like I'd gotten back something I needed to do without even being able to describe what its absence felt like.

The measures that we're all undertaking together to get through this pandemic are critical to allow us to gain these semblances of normality. We need to follow the advice of experts and to look after each other and ourselves. If the restrictions changed again and real-life rehearsals were no longer an option, then I'd respect that. However rather than bury my head in the sand, I'd look to find ways to change my behaviours, to make the most of the present. In the meantime, I'll be rehearsing back with easylaughs as often as I physically can.