Welcome to One Word Suggestion.
Most people think improv is just for comedy or jazz music. But, really, it’s a tool for life. For each article in this series I use a single word, suggested by you, as a leaping off point to explore how having an improvisational mindset will help you perform at a higher level, both personally and professionally, whether you have a career on or off the stage.
One Word Suggestion: Stereotypes
I’m your host Eran Thomson and this week’s word is… Stereotypes.
OK, I might get some pushback for this, but I’m gonna say that the reason stereotypes exist, and persist, is because they are based in some amount of truth.
But that doesn’t make it necessarily OK to reinforce them, whether they apply to you or not.
As far as improv goes, performers often find themselves relying on stereotypes and assumptions surrounding gender that are commonly portrayed in the media.
This happens because they are being spontaneous and reaching for an easy choice that is quickly gettable by an audience. This is understandable, and in most instances, even forgivable, but it’s worth paying attention to.
In a school as diverse as LMA you’re bound to train or play with someone who comes from a different cultural background than you. And that’s part of what makes it so great.
Every class we run is filled with people from all walks of life, who most likely would never have crossed paths if it weren’t for improv. And despite a wide range of socioeconomic and cultural diversity, we all find that we have more in common than we do different. And we learn to see beyond the stereotypes we may have inadvertently held.
On Mike’s secret improv blog he writes: Improv is about saying yes and accepting offers. It’s a place where all people are accepted and tolerance is practised. But sometimes racial, cultural and gender stereotypes and cheap jokes at the expense of those with less privilege get rewarded.
It can be very hard for people affected by this to confront those who are making the jokes without being told they are being ‘over-sensitive’ or ‘it’s just a joke man’.
But for many people, those ‘jokes’ aren’t funny and they’re the same thing they’ve heard time and time again and they may go to the very heart of their identity.
Why would such a person stick around to perform with people who perpetuate the shittier aspects of an oppressive society?
Why would an audience want to stay and watch stories that play out the oppression they see and experience every day when they could be watching something that transcends it?
These are good questions – and they apply as much in real life as they do on stage. So my advice is don’t put people into boxes. And avoid making general assumptions about an individual with little or no personal knowledge about them.
Look beyond race, gender, age, marital status and family responsibilities.
Focusing on differences like these is often the root cause of stereotyping and may result in tension on stage – and in the workplace, where it can be particularly harmful, and hamper your ability to work well with others. Not to mention put you in a position to miss everything that makes someone the beautiful person they are.
Remember, a powerful CEO can be (or be played on stage by) anyone – a straight white man, a gay Latina woman, a young African American transgender woman, the possibilities are endless. So I encourage you to make more unconventional choices.
And if you find yourself reaching for a stereotype, try to at least give it a fresh take.
For example, what’s more memorable? A cop with a dozen doughnuts or a cop with a dozen kale smoothies?
Just do me a favour, if you’re a man playing a woman, try not to be a Mom. And if you’re a woman playing a woman, try not to be a mom! And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you need to see more improv shows.
If you want to suggest a word for next week, or add your perspective, drop me a note in the comments or in a review. I’m making one of these every week, for a year, so definitely subscribe, like, share, and all that jazz.
Or better yet, listen to the podcast.
And in the meantime, if you’re interested in improv for personal growth, professional achievement, or just for fun, my suggestion is to get yourself into an improv class or book a corporate training workshop for your team.
You can learn all about PowerProv’s programs at powerprov.com.au
About One Word Suggestion
The One Word Suggestion series is your personal toolbox full of ways to help you use the power of improvisation to craft a more mindful and meaningful existence. Available as articles, a podcast, and soon, a book filled with powerful exercises for teams.
The One Word Suggestion Podcast with Eran Thomson
In each 3-minute episode, Eran uses a single word, suggested by listeners, as a leaping off point to explore how developing an improvisational mindset will help you perform at a higher level personally and professionally.
Whether you aspire to be better on stage or on the job, this quick hit of improv inspiration is sure to bring you some insights, perspective, and joy.
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