…The New Black
After a massive outcry from women, who felt sexually harassed within the Chicago Improv scene, Diversity has become the newest trend setter within the London Improv scene.
Definition of Diversity:
- the fact of many different types of things or people being included in something; a range of different things or people:
- the fact that there are many different ideas or opinions about something
My name is Gudrun Christine Fritz – Founder & facilitator of the Magic Mad Hat – offering the great benefits of laughter to people with Dementia, adults with learning difficulties and people with mental health issues.
I also was born with a bilateral Cleft lip and cleft palate. Apart from being born with a hole in your face (which is repaired over the course of several operations), I was born with a hearing and speech impairment.
I was born in the 70’s in Austria and at this period of time disabled people (people in a wheelchair, blind people, and adults with learning difficulties…) were kept in homes, out of sight. But I wasn’t ‘disabled’ enough, so I became a thorn in people’s eyes.
Born to be different I was treated as an outcast. I became rebellious, angry, sad, depressed and hated myself to the point of considering suicide.
It took me over 18 years to come to terms with not having a ‘Barbie’ face with an ‘OralB’ smile as I finally accepted my face as who I am.
Ever since I have been conducting (like everyone else) the journey of life, looking to find my purpose, my meaning, my joy and love.
Late 2012 I had discovered the joy, fun, and ‘healing’ power of Improvisational Theater, comedy & clowning.
This discovery was life changing, mind changing and personality changing.
Performing comedy gave me self confidence, self respect, self love and courage. I had been to a few therapies before but none of them had such a break-through effect on me. But as open the comedy scene represented itself I still had to endure some hard rejections – for which (looking back) I am very grateful now. Every ‘rejection’ has made my love and passion for Improv & clowning grow fonder, more creative and more reassuring. Of course, many time I thought: ‘Oh it’s my speech impairment, oh it’s because I am foreign, oh it’s because I am intense, Oh it’s because…’.
But the truth is that people are people, no matter where you go and where you are.
With some you click with others you don’t. Even though you might have a great time in class, this does not mean you will be best friends after class. Even if the ego is not with you during the class, be assured it will be right back after class.
Living in London can be cold and hard at some times as it is the roundabout of the world where people come and go on a constant basis.
I had to learn the ‘hard’ way that living in London can make you rather emotionally detached to people. Most people hang out with friends they have known for a long time, while still keeping a friendly & welcoming appearance to any newcomer.
When I had discovered the brilliantly positive effects of Improv, I decided to spread this beautiful joy to the wider community, especially to help with ‘mental health’ issues.
While talking to people about my idea, I had the impression that many were ‘scared’ of dealing with mentally unstable people, scared they might go off the rail.
Now in my mind, we all have certain ‘mental’ issues. Famous people like Carrie Fisher, Robin Williams or Drew Barrymore are known for their ‘mental’ disorders, but no one was actually scared of dealing with them.
Unfortunately, society’s wider perception of mental health issues seems to be that people are either scary mass murderers or having a loud tantrum while wracking the room.
Improv & clowning techniques are brilliant to open people up, to allow them to be who they are really are without any judgement and without doing anything ‘wrong’.
As I am now offering sessions to people with mental health issues, adults with learning difficulties and elderly people with dementia, I make sure to be fully aware of everyone’s needs, to be flexible in my approach as well as to make sure everyone is always integrated while having lots of fun.
For me diversity means: different, creative, unusual, unique, not the norm, fun, curious, colorful and special.
In order to achieve diversity in any environment you need to start with yourself – be open and not scared of ‘the other’, be curious and don’t deny ‘the uniqueness’, be what you preach and try to act from the heart rather than from the ego, be brave and invite ‘the unusual’ into your life; into your class room, learn, grow and improve through what ‘the not normal’ throws at you, overcome obstacles and be a better person.
Improv, Clowning & comedy are performing arts and if you look at Hollywood you realize that diversity is not a word in Hollywood’s dictionary.
So let’s change these perceptions, let’s make diversity happen by open our hearts, by doing what we are preaching, by at least trying to accept the differences and by simple being humans & honest. Let’s find ways to overcome barriers.
A few of my teachers taught me some effective ways to shine on stage without having to talk. Also, they honestly, remind me to slow down to be better understood.
Where there is a will there is a way. Let’s go to other communities and invite multi-nationalities, disabled people and other minorities to join in the fun. The stage can be for everyone. We all can be heroes!