Let’s go back to a couple weekends ago, something personally described as blissfully typical. The weekend was filled with a road trip, a visit with friends, hiking, performing improv with another group of friends, and relaxation.
As arduous as it may seem to travel though the state, Northeast Pennsylvania (or NEPA) is a beautiful place.
Before heading to participate in the Scranton Fringe Festival via improv, with three of my four fellas from Hazmat Love, a day of hiking through Ricketts Glen State Park was in store. One of the key components of improv is to perform with a clear head, and what a better way to do so than a nine-mile hike.
Ricketts Glen State Park is an amazing park that covers 13,000-plus square miles across three counties in NEPA. It’s a treat for families, a great outing for new to casual hikers, and a refreshing change of pace for the enthusiastic hikers. There are waterfalls aplenty and a photogenic place for trigger happy photographers.
Hiking or spending time in the great outdoors compared to improv — there are plenty of similarities. During a conversation while venturing up and around one of the 21 waterfalls, non-performers and I, in agreement, spoke of how improv benefits everyone. Some people say they couldn’t perform improv; however, everyone essentially improvises on a daily basis in real life. The benefits of improv, especially incorporating a skill building activity in the workplace (as corny as some of them may sound or be) is actually really beneficial for communication, professional performance, and just in everyday basis.
Abiding by the whole “yes, and…” mantra goes beyond the stage. On stage, performers accept what is true in the scene and build a scene off of it; in life, people are able to accept what is presented to them and problem solve or build off of it.
In improv, whether performing solo or as a pair or a group, tell a story from a one-word suggestion and using no props aside chairs and the the environment around you — yeah, so pretty much nothing. Hopefully, the set is memorable.
Hiking, aside the a map and trails being clearly marked (suggestions) and the natural environment, the solo or couple or group of hikers add to their life’s story and create memories.
Back before state parks were protected land, clearly marked pathed environments, and an activity day for everyone, this was unexplored territory. Can you imagine coming across something so miraculous for the first time? Especially in Ricketts Glen, there are so many waterfalls. Now, everyone is able to explore the land, some for the first time, and — those like myself — have to wear bags on the front of their person to prevent their jaws from hitting the ground and drag the rest of the hike.
For the duration of our nine-mile hike, which didn’t feel that long, we resorted to natural living and only using our phones to take photos. The same goes for improv — no props and nothing tangibly extravagant to save the scene. It’s bare-bone creative performance.
In a world where people rely on technological and instant gratification, red notifications that signal likes or follows or requests, life is still significantly more interesting when simply living and performing to the best of our abilities in life and sometimes on stage.