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Breaking my social anxiety: My first year into improv

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It was in May 2018 when I received a message from Toto, who would be one of the driving forces behind Bimpo‘s formation. He asked if I wanted to try improv. I was full of insecurities and uncertainties but I committed to it, albeit half-heartedly.

You see, I was invited to a pool party a month before that and went with my social anxiety through the roof. I had body image issues and wasn’t comfortable being shirtless among good-looking guys. When I got home after the party, I processed what I felt and realized that I had to do something about it.

I told Toto that I’d give improv a shot. I went to the second invitational jam held at IdeaSpace in Makati and, to my surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed it and decided to continue attending the succeeding jams. I’m glad I did.

Bimpo second invitational jam
The author somewhere at the back with attendees of Bimpo’s second invitational jam, some of which eventually became part of Bimpo’s current roster.

Improv saved me. Two weeks into the regular jams, I discovered that my partner was cheating on me. I looked forward to our weekend jams instead of languishing in sorrow. It gave me a new sense of purpose and I wasn’t going to let what I was going through affect what I was beginning to love.

Many Firsts

Bimpo members Gabe and King deep in an improv scene.
Bimpo members Gabe and King deep in an improv scene.

In July that year, it was decided that Bimpo was to have its first show in September. I echoed the team’s sentiment that perhaps we weren’t prepared. But lo and behold, not only was the venue jam-packed, the attendees loved our performances.

With the close of that show, Ang Unang El Bimpo, what we’ve come to refer to as “season one” of Bimpo’s improv journey concluded.

We resumed our jams sometime in November. At this point, improv was like a drug—I was addicted to it. During our “season two,” we discussed and integrated relationships, emotions, and status into our scenes. Admittedly, I had a hard time with emotions because I usually keep mine to myself.

I slowly loosened up and was able to express different emotions, thanks to the great guidance of our facilitators. It did help that we were allowed to draw it from our experiences.

The next big news was when Bimpo registered for the 2019 Manila Improv Festival (MIF). The event was a biennial show that gathered local and international improvisers here in the Philippines.

Bimpo's Gabe and Rye propping up Tams in a scene at the Manila Improv Festival

It was both exciting and shocking to see our name listed next to improvisers we admired. I felt it was a challenge that we had to go through to prove ourselves as legitimate improvisers. So, we trained hard for months.

To be honest, there were times that I felt that I wasn’t good enough and that I wanted to quit, but with the proper encouragement, I stayed. And that’s something that I won’t regret for as long as I live.

Surprisingly, everyone seemed to have deeply enjoyed our MIF set. There was a collective sigh of relief from our group and we were euphoric after the show. That was it. Being introduced to the international community as an improv group that espoused body positivity and self-acceptance was kind of like a medal to be proudly worn. And proud we all were.

Looking Ahead

Bimpo members Gabe and King deep in an improv scene.
Gabe and his Bimpo family.

What’s in store for Bimpo after MIF 2019? Right now, we have our sights on the Singapore Improv Festival next year. Hopefully, all of us can attend. As for me, I plan to continue with improv.

Our group has been such a great support system that it has become my second family. I am enjoying our sessions and I feel like there’s still so much to learn. Now that we’ve moved on to long form, I feel like I’m needed here.

I am energized, and I want to give it my all. My anxiety for performing to a large crowd is still there, but with Bimpo at my back, I know that I can do it.

This article first appeared in Bimpo Improv.

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