October 1st 2017

This month’s blogger is Caroline Welkin, current performer with Double Down.

So Caroline…
How does Improv affect your life?

I use improvisation and origami to supplement across body movement and alternative therapies for concussion rehabilitation. “Most concussed people take anti-inflammatories, anti-depressants and pain-killers”, an alternative therapist told me, “You’ve designed your own effective rehabilitation.” My way’s more fun.

I immersed myself in comedy, comedy theory and performance since 1964. I ran revues at primary school, I hosted Radio Massey’s radio comedy show for years. I introduced stand-up into 1993’s Massey University’s Capping Revue, then I went to Britain to be trained by comedy and method acting world experts. Wellington, 1997, I ran stand-up comedy classes in the burgeoning scene.

Caroline performing with a microphone.
Performing at Wellington Summer Festival 2016.

My lifelong passion and interest for comedy, started with writing, and then, added direction, performance or interaction.

Caroline leaning against a large mural of George Carlin.
Having a chat with George Carlin, outside the Hollywood Improv.

A passion for power of language spilled into career. I added Neuro Linguistic Programming to improve my corporate training and coaching work.

And then I banged my head.

My thinking slowed, I could not write, I was aphasic (could not speak what I thought), I became dyslexic, too tired to listen or watch anything or anyone, light and sound sensitive. Anxiety paralyzed me when I tried to write a set list or a class plan to do stand-up or training. I pulled out of gigs and work.

Now what? I went to comedy writing courses, to try to re-activate my knowledge and skills. Great courses! I couldn’t read the notes I’d written, and I was too slow and anxious to use them.

Then I won a competition for a Lip Sync battle. I uttered not a word! The room clutched their sides laughing. I could barely hold a conversation or move with my limp (yeah, bashed more than my head)! Clearly, I was still funny and needed to find new ways to access it.

I’d enjoyed Chicago Second City’s David Razowsky’s weekend class. Claire Kerrison came to Wellington with her world class expertise and background – and classes. Excited, I signed up.

As Claire layered up our skills, I came to accept how I was now, trust instincts and found acting and thinking in the moment bypassed aphasia and anxiety into a happy, creative space. Wednesday class rocked!

As the months progressed, so did I. I got back to reading. I found the reason improvisation was so effective in Rita Carter’s Mapping The Mind. Many areas of the brain are lit when moving, speaking and thinking simultaneously. Improvisation activates neurons, combined with integrating the brain’s hemispheres with movement. It’s rehabilitation exercise for the bruised brain.

A diagram showing four sections of the brain.
Brain map, from Mapping The Mind by Rita Carter ISBN-13: 978-0520266285, ISBN-10: 0520266285.

I’m still rehabilitating my brain to former function, using improvisation, origami and various alternate methods. My creative outlet is a great improv group who work with what is in the moment. I’ve learnt to let go of what was or ‘should’ be possible, and to enjoy the moment of possibility now.

The next phase is public performances again. “Bring it on!”. Studies show . . . laughter is the best medicine. Come and see us – we’re wise and funny and we’ll be right there in the moment with you!