I just got back from Vancouver, where I took a weekend intensive with one of my favourite acting coaches, Jeb Beach. The weekend was about preparing for pilot season and it certainly was an eye-opening experience to play within all the different genres of the various Networks and streaming sites, as well as to hear how busy Vancouver is for pilots and “movies of the week”.

Jeb gave us some nuggets of wisdom that I had to share because, I believe, they translate to life. The first was: “Being present, is where it’s at…no pun intended.” I loved this phrase because as an improviser we need to stay present in the scene, not thinking about what our next line could be or where the story is going, because if we are in our heads, we’ll miss something. Staying present and focused in the moment allows for wonderful spontaneity and risks on stage. We listen to our scene partners because they are providing us with opportunities to react to something. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if people did that in their daily lives? Just LISTENED to each other, FOCUSED on each other, and stayed present in what they were doing together?

The second powerful moment was when Jeb was working with one of the young actors.  He was pushing this young lady to assert herself, to reach inside and bring up some emotion and strength that was in there somewhere. What happened was an incredible break down. Whatever was going on in her life, whatever was buried in her, came up to the surface and she pushed through the scene, giving a performance that was so powerful. We were breathless. Jeb reminded us that acting opens doors inside of us and we have a chance to “Sit in discomfort” or we can close the doors and play it safe. I appreciated his “Get comfortable with the uncomfortable” as in improv we delve into human emotions; we connect with our audience because we re-enact the human experience and both actors and improvisers tend to expose their vulnerable sides. It is a brave thing to push that door open and expose everything we buried inside, and even more brave to sit in it, explore it, and then get comfortable with it. The true actor is a glutton for punishment, we experience fully, but that’s not just with the lowest of the low, that goes with the highest of the highs as well. Our range of joy is off the charts! What if everyone lived fully?

On the way home, I took all my flight challenges with that same grace. There was something preventing me to get on that plane and have to divert to this city and then not get on that flight. What turned into a full day of traveling ended with me running into both Rick Mercer and Ron James, an opportunity I would have missed if I didn’t just trust the process and path that was laid out for me. Go with the flow people. See how present you can be with people; observe if you shut those doors of emotion when they well up. what would happen if you let yourself feel them? And then go to my Instagram page (comedianstephanieherrera) and like the picture of me and Ron James that Rick Mercer took of us, thanks!

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