[Editor's Note: Once a month we have a producer or artistic director take you behind the curtain, into the rehearsal process, and backstage to illuminate more the of Broadway's Next Hit Musical process. This month it's co-artistic director, co-producer, and cast member Rob Schiffmann]
I've done lots of improv for lots of years.
I have been improvising professionally since I was 23 years old (so, like 8 years…give or take 15 or so years). I started with Chicago City Limits in the '90s as a musician for their touring show. Then I was fortunate enough to be offered a position as an actor in the same company. Over the years, I rose up the ranks until I was eventually directing that same touring company while performing in the show in New York City 3-4 nights a week. Eventually, I left CCL and became a director, performer, and producer for Broadway's Next Hit Musical.
I have also had the chance to use the skills of improvisation as a teacher: both for your basic improv student and for many corporate folks. They use improv in areas like sales, leadership and marketing.
I have even had the chance to go abroad to teach teachers how to use improvisation.
Best of all, I have been able to improvise in my daughter's class room, where I made up songs with her little friends!
The Good and the Bad With Decades of Improv
The amazing thing about this "life in improv" is how it has changed me as a person and how it affects my life on a daily basis. When I am at my best, I am able to "yes and" my friends and family in our interpersonal interactions. I can do my best to make other people look good and I listen as best I can.
As many people would tell you, I don't always succeed. The same pitfalls that I fall into in improv are the ones I fall into in life. I can be too controlling. I can be SO in the moment that I forget that some people prefer to actually have a plan for their day or week or month or year or life.
After Decades of Improvising
However, at the end of the day, a life in improvisation has made me someone who can be counted on in tricky times. I am able to adapt and stay flexible when the pressure is on. In fact, those are the moments I tend to thrive.
I could have been a doctor. I could have actually KNOWN where my next check would come from and when it would arrive. I could have been a teacher or a lawyer or a criminal psychologist. (Can anyone find the link between those 3 things?) BUT, I chose the SOLID and DEPENDABLE career of "professional improviser" and while it may not be the most stable and simple life, it is definitely a dynamic one that has lead to a ton of fun, travel and growth. So…