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The actor and the ironing board: An improbable lesson in improvisation

The actor and the ironing board: An improbable lesson in improvisation

 


It was the opening night of our college production of Half a Sixpence. My buddy John and I were seventh grade machinists. Lisa was an eighth grade star. And I still admire it today for a moment that has little to do with the play itself. It was an ironing board.

The auditorium filled with family, friends and teachers. The lights went out; John and I rushed on stage with the props. At the start of the scene, Lisa's character is standing in front of an ironing board, ironing.

Why we wrote this

A story centered on

Things rarely go as planned. Understanding the art of improvisation, whether on stage or in life, allows us to dance with the surprises, accidents, and pivots that life often presents.

There was a problem.

Guys! Lisa hissed. She held the iron in one hand and supported the ironing board with the other. It won't stay up! Guys!

We only had a few seconds. John and I made futile efforts to repair it. The lights came on, as did the hairs on the back of my neck. We had to go! We rushed down the steps, abandoning him. I'm so glad it's not me up there! I thought guiltily.

Poor Lisa was up there, gripping the ironing board and valiantly pushing the iron back and forth. In a few seconds, she should cross the stage to join her love. What would she do? What could she is doing it ?

No one could convince my teenage self that I had come to see things differently. Each generation, I realize now, knowingly shakes its head at the one coming up, having itself been the object of such nodding. Certain early life events, breakups, bad grades, unfortunate clothing choices, seem to need time to be put into perspective. You'll see, say the distraught adults. We disagree until we catch ourselves saying exactly that to a skeptical teenager.

A female lead in my college musical can probably relate. Lisa was an eighth grade star. I was a seventh-grade machinist. And I still admire it today for a moment that has little to do with the play itself. It was an ironing board.

My buddy John and I were asked to be the stagehands, the only seventh graders in an eighth grade production. We were stationed in front of the curtain on the stairs that led to the auditorium floor. We crouched on the steps, running on stage as the lights dimmed between scenes to position and retrieve props. I have no idea how a college production of Half a Sixpence struck a chord with those with more sophisticated tastes. But as a college student, I was impressed. It was a huge deal.

Why we wrote this

A story centered on

Things rarely go as planned. Understanding the art of improvisation, whether on stage or in life, allows us to dance with the surprises, accidents, and pivots that life often presents.

The lines have been learned, the songs perfected, the set design perfected. John and I achieved all of our goals. The dress rehearsal had gone well and it was now opening night. The auditorium filled with family, friends and teachers. Most of the school was there.

Half A Sixpence focuses on Arthur Kipps, a draper's assistant who unexpectedly inherits a fortune. Ann is his childhood friend, but upper-class Helen falls for him too and her mother has designs on Artie's wealth. Artie has to choose. The climactic scene takes place when Artie meets Ann, played by Lisa. At the start of the scene, she is standing in front of an ironing board, ironing.

The lights dimmed before this scene. John and I rushed on stage with the props.

Sources

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2/ https://www.csmonitor.com/The-Culture/The-Home-Forum/2024/0226/The-actor-and-the-ironing-board-A-unlikely-lesson-in-improvisation

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