Reg E. Cathey is a wonderful actor who has been in The Wire, and a million tv shows and films. He recently played Red in the Shawshank Redemption in Dublin, and is on his way to London’s West End to star in it there. He’s been reading ‘theimprovisedlife’ since its launch in early July and taken its message to heart, responding in comments he’s posted. In telling little stories of his own improvisations, he manages to find the perfect words to describe what improvising is all about. (I’ve quoted two below.)

Apparently, Reggie hadn’t written much before the improvisational spirit moved him him to: a perfect example of its power. This post is an introduction to the post that follows: a gorgeous piece of writing and spoken word from Reggie.

Reggie’s first comment, only three lines long, nails what improvising is better than I ever could:

“I had the happy accident of finding your book, The Improvisational Cook, which helped me cook a birthday meal for my girl. And even though I can’t cook, and even though I made a lot of mistakes, the improvisational spirit made them happy mistakes. Because the improv spirit starts with love.”

There IS a spirit of improvisation. And mistakes when improvising are very different mistakes than the usual blame mistakes that are full of regret and condemnation. They ARE happy mistakes because to improvise, you really do have to suspend judgment, really do have to just kindly, lovingly do what you do, listen to wherever the moment is taking you. The moment when you are improvising, you have faith that ideas will come, that you’ll find your way, that something good will come of it, and all of those things are the earmarks of love.

Here’s Reggie’s sweet story of his relationship-improv, written as a comment to 1000 awesome things:

“Yesterday I went to a fund raiser with my best girl. We took the train from N.Y.C. to Baltimore. What was supposed to be a romantic getaway was besieged with trauma. There were words, emotions and all the things this American male finds disturbing.

The party proved to be uneventful, the kind of situation that was fun but not really. Too much forced laughter of preppy people in bright colored shorts with whales on them.

Afterwards we slept in our beautiful house in Charles Village. The bedroom, an airy cozy nook in the back, unfortunately has no curtains which meant dawn nudged us awake at its crack. The moment had come. We…TALKED. It was wonderful. Feelings weren’t hurt. Egos massaged in that cool way that can happen when the body is still not awake and the day is young enough not to know any better. An improvisation of spirits trying to connect.

And the first thing I said to my girl when we first awoke was, Do you see that sky? Do you see those colors?”

And she said Yes.

That is the first of 1000 things.”

Related post: Reg. E. Cathey’s Goodbye Love Song to Manna Hatta and Its Improvisational Spirit

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