I wouldn't say I left that class feeling like I was funnier or a great improviser, but I did leave it feeling more confident in my ability to react to the unexpected and rolling with a situation or conversation. I liked the experience enough that I wanted to continue learning about it. The gentleman who taught my class was actually the conservatory director for a local theater, which led myself and a few other people from my class to sign up for the level 1 classes there. We all had to split up, though, based on our schedules and what was available. It meant we all lost our safety nets of our relationships with each other, and we all had new teachers to boot. It was still scary, but less so than it was to start the first time.
This new class was...interesting. My new classmates were a vastly different makeup than the last round, which led to entirely different approaches to learning and participating. It jolted me right out of any confidence I had managed to build during the last course, and between them and the different instruction style I felt like I was starting from scratch. Which is okay! There's no right way to do improv, so "starting over" could be a refreshing way to approach any skills I hoped to pick up.
There was a different focus on skills and techniques than I had had previously, which felt more just like a challenge to reapply what I thought I already knew than anything else. I was happy to have that challenge for the first half of the class. The last four weeks were...less exciting. For a while I thought it was me, but a conversation with some of my classmates following the week 7 class showed me it was a broader feeling. Something changed, and the class was no longer about trying to learn this new thing and get constructive notes on how to improve. It switched over to "you're doing it wrong and here's why it's wrong" format. Of course we need to know what needs to change to be better, but in a skill that is inherently one that requires confidence (and where the class is specifically touted as building confidence in the skill) some positive feedback is needed. There was no longer any acknowledgement of what may have been right about what we did.
I left week 7 feeling even less confident about myself, not just my improv skills but me as a person, than I was when I went into my first class way back in November. I strongly considered not going to the final class or the performance we were supposed to do. The more I thought about it, the more I believed it wasn't a lack of progress on my part but was a sign of a poor teacher, but that didn't make me feel any less bad about myself. By the end of the final class I was going to consider the student performance a success if I actually made myself go out on stage and managed to not throw up, and there was no way I was going to do any further classes.
Improv at its core is about support. That's the number one lesson and the thing you work on the most. Improv doesn't work if you reject the reality someone sets up for you. It's surprisingly difficult as it requires relinquishing control and making yourself vulnerable, but its a very necessary part of the art. We're still learning how to do it, but we're trying and we're all able to recognize we don't intentionally shut someone down (fun fact: I am now acutely aware of subtly how we all shut each other down in every day conversation). Our instructor seems to have forgotten that we need his support too, and it's killing our desire and ability to learn how to be better.
The good news is, I lived through the performance! Last night was the level 1 class showcase, where 3 classes were each given 20 WHOLE MINUTES to perform for an audience. A real audience. Who paid to be there. Where the front row is literally so close to the stage that if you're not careful you can trip on them. 20 minutes is a very long time, especially when you're, you know, making stuff up on the spot based on a single word recommendation from the audience. Do you know what we got? A location suggestion...Berlin. This is where I admit I know f*** all about Berlin, and frankly Germany in general, so now we're supposed to do 20 minutes about or in a place that I have no frame of reference for...and based on the reactions of my 6 classmates, they're feeling the same.
LoLink and some other people I knew who saw the show insist we were funny and that I did well, but it's hard to believe that after having a month of negativity from someone who is supposed to be our biggest ally. A friend who was in another level 1 class is trying to convince me to do the level 2 because our initial teacher is doing it, but I'm still not sure. I guess we'll see. For now, I'm glad just to have made it through this without embarrassing myself!