Monica Gaga shares her insight on why holding safe space to discuss race and improv is both essential to our mental health and progression as players and our ability to create change.
Creating a safe space in improv is so important. It’s important for the performers, facilitators, audience and the progress of the improv community as a whole.
If you don’t feel safe in improv, how are you going to move forward in improv?
Let’s imagine that improv is a room that you have never been into before. You are outside the door and for whatever reason you feel this is a door that you want to walk through. So you put your hand on the handle and you open it. You are stepping into a space unknown to you so you feel tense... but you are also intrigued so you step in. It’s dark, it’s cold and the further you go in the more uneasy you feel. You begin to hear whispers, you can’t fully understand what they are saying, but it is not welcoming to you. You may stay for a while to try to better understand what’s inside, but ultimately you do not feel welcome and you do not feel safe so you leave. You may return later, but you carry with you the sense that you need to keep your guard up or you never return, because why bother opening that door again, you know what’s behind it so why put yourself in an unsafe space?
If that is people’s experience of improv, how are we able to have a diverse and inclusive community? Even if we get them through the door they aren't likely to return.
Now imagine this...
Improv is a room that you initially are unsure about and when you open the door it is dark, but the further you go in the brighter it gets. That leap of faith you took paid off. As it gets lighter you start to see faces, some that spark recognition in your mind of people you are used to seeing and some that you are not, but all make you feel welcome. They all make you feel that the relationships you could build will be positive ones. This is a room that makes you want to stay inside it, you are going to want to come back and you are going to want to invite others in. More people may enter the room, but you remember that welcoming feeling and that the people in the room are there to support you and you them.
So it doesn’t matter what comes through the door you are safe in the knowledge that you can deal with it together.
How do we create that space, that feeling of the second room? To start with we do by speaking to the people in the room and the people at the door. What made them want to knock on the door? What made them feel welcome and what made them want to stay?
That is why we want to start by talking to people of colour in improv no matter their experience so we can source the information that makes a safe space from them.
Different Women, Do The Right Scene and Minder Athwal have teamed up to bring you Race & Improv: An Interactive Research Jam hosted by Hoopla Impro. We want to hear views and experiences of people of colour to move forward to make the change we want to see.
Do The Right Scene.