I hate being a beginner. I do like trying different classes and forcing myself to take a risk but I invariably come away feeling rubbish. Beforehand I’ll harbor some fantasy about my latent talent, one which will earn the admiration and astonishment of everyone else in the class – ‘really, this is your first time? well you must be a natural.’ If not that, then I at least hope that someone in the class will be more useless than me, so I can feel some degree of superiority.
I suppose this comes back to the whole – ‘if you don’t fail then you’re not interesting’ theme of my last blog. My belief is that if you’re likely to fail, don’t bother or at least give up before it becomes too embarrassing.
I hated taking classes as a child. Somewhere around the age of 10 my parents forced me to do ballet because my feet turned in and I suppose they thought ballet would reverse that. Clearly a far better choice than actually taking me to a bone specialist to look at the cause or get me some kind of physical therapy. Similar to them getting the hairdresser to leave my hair longer over my right ear so it would cover the fact that it stuck out. Yep, that worked. I was terrible at ballet. Uncoordinated, the very opposite of lithe, with feet that couldn’t even make first position and legs that refused to plie. I later tried tap dancing but all I remember was the teacher shouting ‘shuffle..kick’ over and over and me quitting after three classes.
Didn’t take any more classes until we moved here. Having quit my job and with no idea about what else I could possibly do, I signed up for various things – triathlon 101, an improv class, the misrepresented Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, the Artists Way and probably others that I’ve successfully erased from my mind. The artistic side of me didn’t flourish in the way I’d hoped for, in fact I’d probably have had more success with an advanced trigonometry class. It’s been a bit better with the sporty stuff, mainly because I only join groups that have the words ‘beginner’ or ‘first-timer’ in the title as opposed to intermediate or god forbid, advanced. Can you write god forbid if you don’t believe?
Acting classes are a bit hit and miss. The good ones can be quite helpful to your career, while others just look good on your resume.The last class I took involved wearing a blindfold and making sounds and movements based on your impulses. My impulse was to head for the door and go for a smoke. Some class members claimed to have had a ‘breakthrough’. Someone always does in acting classes. My next one is based on the Meisner technique. It’s all about being in the moment and not in your head. I’m a little sceptical.
And so to the classes I took yesterday. The first was Sketch Comedy, taught by the terribly nice and talented members of an improv group called ColdTowne. As with all classes I’ve taken, they first did that intro bit where you say your name, why you’re there and a bit about your experience. I’d far prefer to do it the British way, where you learn about people as you get drunk together. This class is 8 weeks long, I don’t understand why we have to rush things. The main problem for me with this early intro is finding out just how experienced the rest of the class is. My intimidated self says why come to a class if you’re already good at the stuff? The really uncomfortable part for me yesterday was actually jumping straight in and doing some writing. I prefer a more gentle approach, you know where we spend at least the first class just talking around the subject and taking extended breaks. By the end of class we’d each come up with a sketch idea and an outline and are supposed to bring the finished sketch to class next week for group critique. My premise? The Secret Life of Concrete. Brilliant. My next sketch will be called ‘Watching Paint Dry’ and there won’t be even a hint of irony.
The second class was improv. I was initially pleased to find that one of the 8 people had less improv experience than me, but she turned out to be far better than I was. I find improv extraordinarily difficult because you’re not supposed to censor yourself. Oh yes that’s always worked well for me. My brain is like a corporate spokesperson – if I dare to go off-message it just freezes and refuses to come up with anything else. Were my brain more flexible, it would probably laugh behind my back at my improv efforts. The more the instructors told us how brilliant we all were, the louder I heard ‘..except for you Gallant.’
But, I intend to complete the full 8 weeks of both classes. Masochistic perhaps, but there’s always a chance that my latent talent will only emerge at the six week point. To everyone’s even greater astonishment and admiration. What a breakthrough.