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  • Writer's pictureCoach G's blog

Ironman improviser

Updated: Jan 8, 2021

2020 has forced me to stop doing a lot of stuff I love, and even examine why I love the stuff I love. Specifically, not being able to participate in almost anything athletic or attend live theater, both of which I've always loved for connection, group energy, shared experience.

Lemme back up a tad. I've also examined this cultural need to separate Theater from Athletics for years. See also, every John Hughes film... or the TV show Glee... or any teen comedy ever.

EVEN THOUGH... In high school I lettered in soccer and played the Jester in Once Upon a Mattress. In college I was a cheerleader and mascot, which I submit is theater right next to athletics. After college I took all the classes at all the improv theaters--iO (on a Harold team briefly), Annoyance, ComedySportz and Second City Conservatory--while coaching soccer, earning a black belt in TaeKwonDo and generally missing the obvious connections among them all. I just never saw it.

Admittedly, there are examples of popular culture where Athletics and Theater make great blends: both the MCU (that's Marvel Cinematic Universe, boomer) and Fast and Furious franchises...AND every martial arts movie ever...AND professional wrestling. These are all examples of athletes co-opting theater (or the other way around?) to tell stories. See also Daniel Craig as 007 or pretty much anything Dwayne Johnson, Dave Bautista, Jason Momoa do.

Regardless. For the last eight months? No 5ks, 10ks, marathons, triathlons or IRONMAN events (technically, they squeaked in two. Just two... all year). No Second City or Harolds or ComedySportz, let alone any local improv troupes in the back room of the local bar. Zero group training or Track Tuesdays. Zero improv workshops.

So here we are. What exactly am I getting at? Over the last five years, but most directly in the last twelve months, I've embraced triathlon as an athlete and coach, much like I did with improvisation. As an Age Group athlete most of the fun of triathlon is generated from shared experiences and connections. As a theatrical improviser ALL the fun comes from shared ideas and exploring connections with others.

Up to now (literally, this blog), I've also segregated the two rich worlds from each other. Without the backhanded "help" of 2020 quarantines I might NEVER have recognized how much Athletics informs Theater and vice versa, So... silver lining.

My next six blog entries will be about the CROSS POLINATION BETWEEN TRIATHLON TRAINING AND IMPROVISATION. This entry you're reading is Introduction and Table of Contents. If I do this right, the list below will have become hotlinks to each blog entry.

(I know future past tense "will have become" makes no sense. Just simmer down. It will eventually... just like triathlon training and improvising! See? It's working already.)

Here goes...

Now. A little teaser about TALENT. In her modern instruction manual, "Improvisation for the Theater," Viola Spolin, the woman who literally birthed modern improvisation, wrote:

We must reconsider what is meant by "talent." It is highly possible that what is called talented behavior is simply a greater individual capacity for experiencing.

That's all for now.

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