The DCH Diaries: Level 1, Class 1

It’s Saturday afternoon, early January. I have major butterflies--no, they’re Canada geese--in my stomach as I sit in the audience chairs waiting for the start of my first class. Sarah Wyatt

My teacher, Sarah, and her assistant, Molly, greet my fellow class members as they enter. Is it just me, or is everyone a bit on edge?

Soon enough, it’s time for class to start. Sarah invites us to sit on the edge of the stage. The spotlights sear my eyes. Preliminaries and introductions over, Sarah instructs us to climb on stage for warm-ups. And, therein lies my first major obstacle.

Am I nervous to be on a stage that had brought me so much laughter and joy? Yes, but that wasn’t the issue.

Do I feel a little intimidated to be among such a good-looking crew of enthusiastic youngsters classmates? Of course, but that, too, is not a problem.

Am I afraid that my teachers and my fellow students will wonder how the hell an introverted, mild-mannered, white-bread, arthritic middle-aged woman had wandered into the theater? Sure. But even that is also not enough to send me home.

The frigging issue is how I will hoist myself the two feet from floor to stage without stairs or a step ladder.

It is an unanticipated problem, but I will not be deterred. I am not going to let this young person’s game defeat me. I will show them that you don’t have to be a 24-year-old guy to stretch your legs, literally, and do something totally out of character. Neither do you have to be a frustrated comedian or future Saturday Night Live cast member to step onto that stage. You don’t even have to be brave. That will come. You just have to be willing to accept your vulnerability and to take a calculated risk in a supportive environment, led by experienced, funny, creative, patient instructors, surrounded by people who feel EXACTLY like you do.

DCH stage

How hard can that be?

I take a deep breath, crawl up on my knees, and struggle to my feet. Later, when it comes time to descend from the stage, Sarah finds a cinder block to ease the journey, and a couple of those 24-year-olds take my hands to guide me down. It is my first taste of the importance of supporting your scene partners in improv.

After class, I go to Home Depot and buy a step stool.

Next week: the Jam

Carron Armstrong is currently in Level 3 and has been obsessed with improv and DCH ever since she discovered that someone can actually take classes to learn this stuff. She is currently negotiating to purchase the naming rights for the brand new stairs added to ease access to the stages of DCH's Main Street theaters (Thank you, Amanda and Kyle). During the day, she’s a lawyer.