The Changing Nature of Our Performers

The 20 performers in the PANEK improv class have changed so much!

The weekly classes that we began 3 months, in a strange half finished space behind Paolo’s gallery, have gone from strength from strength.

Although the initial sessions were a little tricky to start with, the more that our students have got to know each other, the easier the improvisational lessons have flowed.

Familiarity and ritual breeds comfort. As the weeks have flown by, the warm-ups and exercises that elicited stifled giggles at first are now treated with a reverential silence, as the small gathering of would-be actors are beginning to take their craft seriously. They might not have realised it, but each one of them has undergone a change in their identity. Where once they would consider themselves as just a ‘student’ or just a ‘customer representative’, they now have a new arrow in their quiver.

By returning to the PANEK drama class, week on week, they’ve been challenging themselves to do something different each week.

Each session, bar the familiar warm-up exercises, is completely different from the last. The rolling group of 20 or so students ensures that no team-up is ever the same, so each time a new group is put together there are countless possibilities as to what they’ll come up with. Being faced with these variables on a week-by-week basis is what hardens our students as performers.

They might start out as timid actors, a little scared of making a mistake or breaking character, but these fears soon begin to wane as they make these mistakes and realise that there is no shame in doing so. As each individual has begun to shed their inhibitions, that might have limited their initial enjoyment of their classes, I can see that they now hold themselves a little taller.

It would be easy to dismiss this change as something that only takes place within our performance space. After all, its not like I see them outside of the class. But as someone who has also benefited from the empowering effects of performance, I understand that it can really cause a positive change in your whole life.

For some people who struggle with their confidence or self-esteem, like I did when I was younger, the practice of drama and improvisation can be a therapeutic experience. Once you’ve entered into a space where any mistake you can make is irrelevant, you soon understand that the ‘real world’ outside the performance space, really isn’t that much different. Of course, the stakes are always raised significantly whenever you step outside, but I soon learnt that the only person who truly punished me for me errors was myself.

With this in mind I could go forth into the world with a new sense of confidence and ease that I’d not felt before.

The challenge of bringing up a difficult topic of conversation no longer seemed so daunting. Walking into a social situation with a group of complete strangers no longer phases me.

In fact I now relish the chance to do that, something that I know my students do too…