I was introduced to The Institution Theater in Austin swiftly and uncomfortably almost a year ago. My younger sister sent me a last-minute text asking if I wanted to go to a free improv class with her there.
I was in a rare “yes” mood, so I agreed to tag along (when I think of things I want to do, making up stories on the spot with complete strangers is usually near the bottom of my list).
So I went to The Institution Theater. And I made up stories with strangers. I smiled and laughed and felt stupid and awkward. I had a great time. Was it a magical experience that completely changed my life? No. But it did make me step out of my comfort zone and changed my perspective in a positive way. I left feeling better than I had when I walked in, and more willing to be that person to stop you on the street and pay you a compliment, or ask you a question, or even simply smile in your direction.
Being in that improv atmosphere helps you realize that everyone is vulnerable and awkward sometimes. It’s not just you.
The initial experience didn’t drastically change my life, but it was just one class. I didn’t keep going. My sister did. Over the past year, I’ve seen The Institution Theater change her. I’ve watched her grow more comfortable with herself than I ever imagined possible. She smiles more, laughs more, and her jokes have gotten a lot better. She seems happier to be in her own skin. Heck, last week I witnessed something completely off the wall for her: she performed her first stand-up routine and cracked up the entire audience.
The Institution Theater is run by Tom Booker and Asaf Ronen, two improvisational geniuses with nearly 50 years of experience between them. They offer all sorts of classes and put on multiple shows every week. I’ve been attending their shows consistently throughout the past year and have never left disappointed.
When you walk into The Institution Theater, you can tell how passionate Tom and Asaf are about what they do. You can also look around and see the community of people they’ve built around them. People who support one another, are there for each other, and aren’t afraid to look stupid in front of one another once in awhile.
If your gut is saying that improv is not for you, you should check out what The Institution Theater has to offer here. The venue holds multiple free improv workshops every month, no catch. If you enjoy your experience, stick around and take a class. If class isn’t for you, take something positive from it and enjoy a show once in awhile from the audience’s perspective. You never know – The Institution Theater may just change your life. Get real, get uncomfortable, and thank me later.
Have you ever had an experience doing improv?