Comedy, Improv, and the Spiritual Spark - New York News

Comedy, Improv, and the Spiritual Spark

Comedy, Improv, and the Spiritual Spark

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Improvisation can be wildly entertaining! Talented actors assume outrageous characters on stage, constructing hilarious scenes off the cuff. Imagine if spirituality were part of the equation, the fuel that gets actors' creative engines purring. Over the Counter Improv (OTC Improv) in Charlotte has mastered the skill of spontaneous dramatizations like the best in the business. The secret ingredient to their on stage genius may be spiritual in nature.

Paul Marks is the owner of Over the Counter Improv. The group is comprised of a creative crew of developers, investment brokers, singers and teachers moonlighting from center stage. Marks says, “it feels like we're passing great gifts to each other. It's like you're funny, I'm funny. We're all having a great time.” Are those shared gifts propelled by spirit?

“From a spiritual perspective, it just makes us feel so comfortable inside. That's why when we're doing our shows and see people having a good time, It brings a lot of joy to us.”

It sounds like a reciprocal process of gratitude, similar to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's notion of flow. Flow is a state of mind, a state of extraordinary artistic production. In his book Finding Flow, Csikszentmihalyi articulates it this way:

“If you are interested in something, you will focus on it, and if you focus attention on anything, it is likely that you will become interested in it. Many of the things we find interesting are not so by nature, but because we took the trouble of paying attention to them.”

Yet, is flow different than spirituality. Paul Marks says for him, improvisational comedy is, in fact, a spiritual enterprise. “I always feel like God is beside me. No matter what I do or what I say, he's going to correct it. “

Paul grew up in a sprawling home in Framingham, Massachusetts – just outside of Boston.

The family went through periods of extreme wealth. But during a pretty drastic financial downturn. Paul's mom got down on her knees. Paul remembers:

“It was tough when I was a kid. So my mom found God when I was 10. That became a very huge part of my life at 10 years old. We used to pray together every night for the situation to get better. “

Paul says with patience and prayer, the situation did get better, and Paul discovered his comedic gift. You might say his process of receiving the gift is extraordinary.

"Sometimes, a lot of people say to me, why are you laughing at your own stuff…. Part of it is like there's somebody who comes into my head and says the joke…. My wife and I talk about that all the time. We'll be telling a story, and then all of a sudden, we'll tell a joke, and we are laughing together really, really hard. It is honestly like there's a third person who just told it to us.” Paul says the third person may be God.

Paul is not the only comedic actor in OTC to have this type of spiritual experience. OTC Improv group member, Sonja Goodwin, can relate. A few years ago, Sonja was new to Charlotte, looking for ways to connect to the community. When she found Over the Counter Improv, it stirred up something inside. “I love to make people laugh. I feel like it's a connection of spirits; it's a connection of souls.”

You might liken the rhythm of improv to the stillness of meditation. Is it spiritual? Let us know what you think.

If you want to catch OTC Improv in action consider this. The group has two back to back performances coming up soon:

8 PM, Saturday, September 27th

8 PM, Saturday, October 4th

The Actors Theatre

650 East Stonewall Street

Charlotte, NC 28202


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