This semester on Tuesday evenings I've been taking an additional class. Not a law class but something completely different: improv. My original thinking was that it would help me learn better how to think on my feet, which in theory would help me when I did moot court. It didn't hurt, but it wasn't a magic pill either. (Of course, this caused a friend of mine to hypothesize that when called upon by the judge, I'd be tempted to respond, "Your Honor, pretend we're all in a taxi...")
I was only going to do one session of the class but I had fun so I did the next level too. The last class for me was last night. Where I've been taking my classes the emphasis has been on developing characters, taking on physicality or status or mood or some combination thereof. Last night in one scene one of my classmates started taking on a mother role and my teacher helped reorient the scene so that she'd take on a different type of relationship. Afterwards she commented that many women improvisers tend to take on motherly characters, or that of prostitutes. In a fit of self-righteousness I blurted out, "I've never been a prostitute." The teacher said, "Well next week we'll have to fix that." It was a bluff, of course, because she and I both knew I wouldn't be there for next week's class, the last one of the session. But my classmates were having none of that. "Do it now!" they cried, and then started chanting, "Whore! Whore! Whore!" Oops.
So because it was my last class I got to be in all the scenes (normally we just randomly partner-up and do separate ones with different characters in each.) I was the same prostitute in every one, but each other person would come in and be some other character that could interact with me in some context. The environments would change for each one too: one person was a john meeting me on the street, one was a doctor in an exam room, etc. But each time I was the same character with the same history, mannerisms, and personality informing "me" in each context.
I was given a few moments at the beginning to establish the character a little on my own so that other people would have some idea of whom they would be interacting with. I got myself "dressed" with a tight skirt, garters, make-up and teased and heavily hair-sprayed hair, then went out to the "corner" and made some comment about needing to do this to make a living, since what good was a Harvard education. It was a dig, of course, at one of my classmates who went there. During the scene he did with me I continued to discount the education. "Graduating magna cum laude from Harvard just doesn't get you very far," I lamented. He zinged back, "Yeah, it's a summa world out there." But it became a running joke threading all the scenes. I refused one character, a john, because he was a Harvard grad and I was afraid of the health implications of dealing with such a lowlife... Then there was a scene where I was being accused of murdering someone. "So someone gets clocked in the head by a Constitutional Law case book and dies three days later of a brain hemorrhage – what makes you think that was my doing?"
Anyway, it was all very silly, but it was fun to do. I don't have any particular background in the theater arts so I've never tried to take on other characters before. It's interesting, though, putting on someone else's physicality because it makes you much more aware of your own native one by contrast.