Silent Tree Music
A DAY AT THE IMPROV
From my experience, Dwight Schultz (The A-Team; Star Trek:
Next Generation, Voyager; Chowder) was good at teaching,
at least the Acting I course he taught as a fresh grad student
at Towson State College during the summer session of 1970:
informative, interesting, enthusiastic, empathic, experiential.
Having just transferred from Salisbury State College,
a smaller, more rigid school, I felt somewhat apprehensive
about calling a college instructor by his first name,
as I recall Dwight had requested.
I think it was Dwight who got me to really be aware of being
in each instant, each moment, "in the now"
(a slightly crucial point in improvisation).
Not using hyperbole, one of the most outstanding experiences
of my life occurred in that class during an improv exercise.
Briden Fitzgerald (a beautiful, energetic red-head) & I were
to create a situation in which we each had opposing motives &
objectives, carrying them through to some form of completion.
My objective: to commit suicide by pushing myself off
of a high bridge. Hers: to keep me alive.
From the training I received from Dwight, as homework, I went
into my memories & drew & expanded upon an experience in which
I had been in a car accident. Using my imagination & building upon
feelings of guilt, sadness, remorse & self-loathing, internally I became
someone who had killed an entire family via drunk driving ...
except for one critically injured young girl.
In the class, this became extremely real for me, not only internally,
but in what I thought I was actually experiencing in the "real" world.
I saw the steel girders & cables of the bridge supports, the road
grime & dust on the concrete decking of the structure behind me.
I could feel the rough texture of the concrete ledge on which
I was sitting, the chilling cold of the steel girder against my back.
I could see the green paint chips flecking off the railings,
revealing a different prior shade beneath. & way down below, barely
visible, the white-caps of the steel-gray water of Baltimore harbor.
(I just noticed that I do not remember feeling the wind
which would have created those white-caps.)
So, there I was, sitting on this bridge, feeling like crap,
determined to end it all, reviewing last regrets, when
this busy-body do-gooder passerby came walking along
behind me on the bridge sidewalk & started talking to me.
So distraught, I paid no attention to her being gorgeous.
She was more of a momentary annoyance to me at most.
I do not recall too much of the conversation, but it soon
became apparent that she was trying to talk me out of jumping.
That was not going to happen. My mind was set.
I was adamant. No turning back whatsoever.
Realizing her efforts were losing, I saw her call to a fisherman
walking along the bridge, complete with three fishing poles,
tackle box and a soft, brimmed hat perforated with lures,
to assist her in saving my life. Then it got really physical as they
were vigorously wrestling with me, trying to pull me back to safety.
From my point of view, the time to jump was now.
There was no fisherman or any of his paraphernalia.
[Briden had grabbed another student from out of the class to help her.]
There was no bridge ... or water far below ... or water anywhere near.
[I was sitting on top of a typical (not-so-sturdy) metal & laminated wood-top
school desk in a temporary classroom trailor at Towson State College
(now Towson University, north of Baltimore, MD).
Mr. Schultz had to actively get involved to get us
to stop "acting" before somebody got hurt.
He gave an "A" to both Briden and myself.
The "volunteered" "fisherman" probably got extra credit.
The entire class was enthralled.
Cannot recall if that was our final exam or not, but for me,
no other exercise in that class came nearly as close.
Dwight gave me a "B" for the entire course.
I guess I should have thanked him for stopping us when he did.
No telling how my mind would have reacted to hitting the water.
I wish all my memories were as clear & lucid as of that improv.
Not sure what impact that experience had directly on my life.
It is one of my fondest memories & definitely a high point in
any acting I have done, a strong demonstration to me not only
of my own capabilities, but of those of the human mind & spirit,
as well as the fragile malleability of our perception of reality.
I would like to think that that improv also had a positive effect
on my writing, if not from anything else,
than from being experiential and "in the now".
- Mick Terry
Official Dwight Schultz Fansite for Dwight Schultz bio & info.
[ Linked to this page in 2nd paragraph of Biography ]
Copyright © 2004 MICK TERRY All rights reserved
[ Reprinted here by permission of the author. ]
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To song inspired by this experience: ONE QUICK LESSON IN FLYING
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