“Only 2 more days of school!” my oldest son smiled at me this morning. “Then we have the WHOLE summer off!”

This propelled me back to my childhood, when coming back from summer vacation was a life changing event. We all came back taller, more curious, and, sometimes, re-invented! “When did Mark get pimples?” “When did Stephen get cute?” “When did Becca get boobs?” Our previous identities had changed: cool kids became the annoying kids, the ugly ducklings became swans, and sometimes, even the gawky or chubby kids suddenly came back as athletes. Either way, whether positive or negative, you were faced with the concept that this is the “new” you.

In improv, we find this ability to change ourselves with a simple change in body position, accent, or personality quirk. It is a skill “walking in someone else’s shoes” that we take on as naturally as a chameleon. It is liberating to be someone you could only dream of being (like a rich Texan, a superhero, or an iconic figure like King Arthur) and also, as an actor, fascinating to delve into the motives and behaviours of less attractive people (criminals, supervillians, and really bizarre people). This is a method I use when I’m doing corporate training. Like a workshop on differing personalities, it helps people to explore other feelings and goals that are outside their scope… and it creates empathy. I had an improv cast mate that once said she was never the “120lb Cheerleader” so she was sure to play that kind of character whenever she could. Because anything is possible in improv, and since we were trained to say “Yes” to all offers, sure enough, she was a “120lb Cheerleader”!

Another thing that hit me when my son made his comment, was his concept of time. As a child, time was infinite. Getting to your next birthday or Christmas took forever, but as an adult, time seems to constantly remind us that we are getting older every second of the day. Ever wake up and think, “Hey, that wrinkle wasn’t there before!”? Or how about finding your first grey eyebrow hair or, as my older friends have been telling me will happen, how about the first dreaded grey pubic hair? The horror! To a child, the summer felt like a year! All through that time I would pine away for my school friends, having only the neighbourhood children as playmates…ah, quite a different world before the internet!

It’s interesting, to me, that we spend the first 19 years of our lives rushing to get older with cries of “I can do it! I’m a big girl/boy!” to “I can’t wait until I can get my licence/are able to drink!” to “Finally, I’m done my education, time to get life started!” to “What the hell is with the grey pube????!!!” We begin applying lotions, lying about our age, getting younger lovers, and more than anything, we reminisce about the old days, when we were kids, when we had so much more energy and when the little things were the greatest things.

Another thing we focus on in improv is being present in the now. So simple a concept; listen to your scene partner, don’t think of what is to come in the scene, wait for it to unfold, stay in touch with your feelings because that might drive the scene…do we do this in life? After you read this Newsfeed, try something. Rest your hands on your lap and close your eyes and just listen. Take in the sounds around you (or lack thereof). Check in with your emotions, and just be in the now. When you’re done this remember to check in once in a while with yourself. Find an opportunity to revert back to that curious child (before the pimples and boobs) and play! Then start your plans for daycare, lunches and fall clothes, because school is only 8 weeks away!

About the Author

Stephanie Herrera is a comedian, writer, producer, teacher, singer, actor, mother of 4, and shallow philosopher. She runs the Durham Improv & Acting Studio in Oshawa, Canada, is a professor at Durham and Fleming Colleges, and is an award winning performer.  www.durhamimprov.com / www.stephanieherrera.com / info@durhamimprov.com / (647) 899-3342  Durham Improv Group and Business pages can be found on Facebook and follow @durhamimprov & @antimommy