Showing posts from 2021

Too busy not to have fun.

There is always so much to do! Even in retirement, I find my days go by so fast that I often don't get the things done that I want to. I may not go into the office daily, but I still preach most Sundays. It's amazing how people think that doesn't take time, after all I have thirty-six years of sermons piled up. And then there's my improv workshops, the Facebook improv page I have to keep current, and my blog. There are family obligations, a house to keep up, meals to shop for and prepare, you know, regular life. I've heard many retired people say they don't know how they ever found time to work! For those of you who are still gainfully employed, I know it can get even worse. The forty-hour work week seems to be a thing of the past. Most people I know are spending more and more time bring work from home, and if they happen to work from home, there are no such things as time clocks.  As a parish priest, I lamented that church activities no longer drew the numbers


When doing scene work in an improv workshop, I've seen people get stuck in their heads trying to come up with a response that is out of the box, funny, and original. That's a lot of pressure and it takes it's toll by pulling focus away from the scene. You can almost hear the wheels turning in their head as they look off into space in search of the perfect comeback. The secret, of course, is that the answer is right there in the scene. Focus on being in the scene and say the first thing that comes to you. It's obvious.  Wait, they say, it can't be obvious. You have to mine for the gold to make a scene really funny. One must think outside the box. The "box" contains the who, what, where, and why of the scene. Stay in the box and use what you've been given.  Keith Johnston, a pioneer in improv and father of Theatresports, teaches us that the more obvious one is, the more original one appears. In Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre  he writes, "I con

Raising the Stakes

  The Perils of Pauline  began in 1914 as a melodrama film serial produced by William Randolph Hearst. It was later serialized again in 1933 and then made into a movie with Betty Hutton in 1947. Most of us are familiar with the story; rich heiress refuses marriage in order to explore the world, eludes the villain who wants the family fortune, and always ends up in some sort of danger by the end of the reel. The danger is highly dramatic, she's laid out in front of a buzz saw, or locked in a room full of dynamite, or tied to the railroad tracks. The audience knows Pauline will survive, but they are glued to their seats with anticipation as to how. Now the story of a spunky, independent heiress on worldly adventures could have been interesting on its own, but the filmmakers raised the stakes by adding the elements of risk, danger, and intrigue. What could have been an interesting story becomes a nail-biting adventure. I see a lot of good scenes in improv. The basics of story-telling

Train Your Brain

 After I retired from full time parish work, I began working on an idea I had about combining my love of improv with my church work. That's the reason I titled this blog "Improv Spirituality." I find that the tenets of my faith and of improv go hand in hand.  The initial course I wrote for improv in the church is a two-day seminar entitled "Innovative Church." Over two days and three sessions, I lead church boards, clergy, and staff through the skills required for improv, which are the same skills required for innovative thinking, creativity, and adaptability. These are the skills needed for congregations to be vital and life giving in this age of stress and uncertainty.  Now that most of the pandemic restrictions have been lifted, I am also returning to coaching in-person improv workshops. The workshops are not performance groups, per se. The point isn't to book gigs at the local pub or comedy joint. The purpose of the individual workshop is similar to that

Me do Improv? Impossible!

  “Alice laughed. 'There's no use trying,' she said. 'One can't believe impossible things.' I daresay you haven't had much practice,' said the Queen. 'When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. There goes the shawl again!” ―  Lewis Carroll When I ask people if they are interested in an improv workshop, I can't tell you how many reply with, "Oh, that's impossible. I could never stand up in front of somebody and do that!" They say they aren't funny, or they're an introvert, or they aren't creative. There's never a lack of excuses why they can't improvise. Pretty much almost all the excuses boil down to one basic root cause, fear. People are afraid of failure, of looking foolish, of what other's might think. We can always think of reasons not to do that which scares us. For a change, lets focus on the reasons on

Make Another Choice

Improv is all about the choices one makes. When presented with an offer from your scene partner, your job is to make a strong choice that moves the scene forward. It is the basic Yes, and of improv. One's choice should be made using all the information at hand by playing at the top of your intelligence. Playing to the top of your intelligence means  not making the obvious choice but rather make a choice that is honest, real, and not contrived. Improv isn't necessarily just saying the first thing that pops into your head, but the most thoughtful, real thing. There is an improv game called "Make another choice." In this game the moderator observes the scene and at any time may ask a player to "make another choice". The player then has a second chance to come up with a different response to an offer. I play the game with a small school bell. When the improviser hears the ding, they know they may not being playing at the top of their intelligence. It's usual

It's Not About Being Funny, It's About Being a Better You

  Many psychologists and researchers believe we have five core personality traits; openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. It may help to remember them with the acronym, OCEAN. Like any other personality typing such and Myers-Briggs, these traits provide a range of  behavior, from high to low. They are a convenient way to look at how we are "wired" but they do not dictate how we will always react. There is also evidence that we can re-wire our traits through activities and life experience. Our experiences can actually lead us to either end of the spectrum. In the context of improvisation, I can see three areas where the skills of improv can help us become more open, secure, and agreeable. Improv teaches us to accept all gifts and build upon them. It's the basic Yes, And of improv. Since I cannot deny a partner's offer, I must take their suggestion and integrate it into our scene. What this does is enhance our integrative complexity.

"Adaptive Change" sermon based on 1 Kings: 2

  Adaptive Change: sermon for Proper 15 by the Rev. Rick Kautz The Lord came to Solomon in a dream and said, “Ask what I should give you?” Basically, God told Solomon to make a wish. Although it’s only one wish and not three, I think its better than the genie in the bottle, because, you know, it’s GOD! So, right now I would like everyone to take a moment and think about what it is they would wish for. Health? And end to Covid? World peace? All great options.   What Solomon wished for, was not any of those things. He wished for wisdom, which itself is wise. It’s wise because if we wish for health today, we could fall ill tomorrow. We could end Covid today, but a new virus could spring up anytime, anywhere. World peace? We’ve had moments of world peace before, but they don’t last long. People are still people; we scapegoat, we project, we deny, we are greedy, and selfish. It’s all about me and it’s all about now.   Solomon didn’t ask God to change the world, he asked God to chang

Finding Connection and Comfort in Improv

  Once you immerse yourself into the world of improv, you start to see improv principles in almost every aspect of life. One place I didn't expect to find an improv connection is in hygge. Hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) is the Danish art of contentment, comfort, and connection. Hygge has been described as a quality of presence and an experience of belonging and togetherness. It is a feeling of being warm, safe, comforted, and sheltered. Hygge is about family and connection.  Hygge is about family gatherings, sharing meals, and snuggling by the fire with a cup of hot tea or cocoa. To hygger means to put oneself in this cozy state. This seems the antithesis of comedy improv. Most people view improv as fast paced, hectic, and anything but calming. For the average person, improv is stress-inducing, not stress-relieving. At the very heart of improv, however, you find the same values; connectivity, being in the moment, and being supportive of the other. This is what Louisa Thomsen Brits wrot

Mindfulness Meditation and Improv

 When you think of an improv show, what comes to mind? For many, it's fast-paced, wacky, over-the-top scenes. It can appear to be joke after joke. During my improv workshop, I've seen students try to top each other with funny lines or crazy scenarios. It never succeeds, however. The basis of improv is not to have the funniest line or the quickest response. The basis of improv is focus and attention. Improv is less like stand-up comedy and more like mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation is inspired by Buddhist teachings but it also has its roots in ancient Christian prayer as well. The Practice of the Presence of God  was written by Brother Lawrence, a Carmelite Friar in the 17th Century. In his book, Br. Lawrence teaches how to be fully present to God in every moment. Even when he is cleaning the monastery's toilets, he reminds himself that in this menial job he is serving Christ himself. Eckhart Tolle writes in The Power of Now  that we are to live fully in the pr

What I've Learned About Leadership

 My family and friends tell me I'm a bit of a control freak. I'm also a perfectionist, and not surprisingly, the person I'm hardest on is myself. I don't think I was wired this way. I've taken the Myers-Briggs as well as the Enneagram. My Myers-Briggs is ENFP, which is loose and fun loving. My Enneagram is a 7 with a strong 2 and 8. My desire to control comes more from my family of origin. I'm the adult child of an alcoholic and also child of a manic depressive. I grew into the role of family hero.  So, if things need to be done right, you can count on me. I have a strong sense that if I don't hold things together, they will fly out of control. This is the reason, I believe, that I love improv. For someone who always feels responsible, it's great to get on stage and let go. The number one rule of improv is that it's not about you, it's the team. Rules such as "Yes, and", "follow the follower", and "make your partner look

Be Weird Like Jesus

  Be Weird Like Jesus Let's face it, Jesus was weird. He was a rabbi, yet he seemed to ignore basic rabbinical laws. He was a holy man, yet he hung around with sinners. He didn't fit into what his culture said he should be. He knew things about people that were beyond explanation. He raised people from the dead. In fact he was, by the very definition of weird, strange, extraordinary, supernatural, and fantastic. So, when scripture calls us to be like Jesus, to pick up our cross and follow him, to be a fool for Christ, it's calling us to be weird. I know it can be hard to embrace your inner weirdo. As youngsters one of the worst names we could be called was, weirdo. Anything that made us stand out from the crowd was seen as bad. Peer pressure, along with some well-meaning parents, told us to stop be so "weird." Be normal, fit it. And so we did. We squashed the unique creative part of ourselves and conformed. As followers of Jesus, however, we claim to have been mad

Samaritan Cookbook - a review

  Samaritan Cookbook - a review Food, as in breaking of bread and feasting, along with hospitality are integral to God's being. Jesus' command to "take, eat" is not just a Eucharistic command, but a call for God's people to put aside their differences and come together at table. Post resurrection Christ often appears to his disciples in "the breaking of bread." It was this and my personal interest in food and cooking that led me to jump at the chance to review Samaritan Cookbook: A Culinary Odyssey From the Ancient Israelites to the Modern Mediterranean by Benyamim Tsedaka. The first thing I noticed upon receiving the book was it's design. The book is beautifully illustrated with artwork along with pictures, not only food, but of the Samaritan people. The second thing I noticed was that the book is a balance between actual recipes, theology, and cultural information. This is a cultural cookbook in which the author and editors appeal to five main grou