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LONG-FORM IMPROV
January 31, 2005
 
Did you miss us? I ask.

Noodle says nothing, but bites my hand a little when I stroke her head. Our absence is only the latest in a series of recent offenses: she still hasn't forgiven us for getting her a pink rhinestone collar with a little bell on it. It has deprived her of her chief joy in life, sneaking up on the other cats and scaring the bejesus out of them.

No biting! I tell her severely, and pull my hand back. She lunges after it. I always tell her No! in a stern voice and it never works. She thinks it's a game.

Rosie's coming over this morning, I tell Noodle, and you have to be her nurse. Rosie was ill last night and must be home from school today. I have turned back the bed in her old room. She can doze and listen to the radio. I can bring her tea. Or maybe Noodle can bring her tea, in a little flask suspended from her new collar, like a miniature St. Bernard. Sure.

All the cats living on the Farm at the moment have been inherited from Rose. Most of our animals have come to us from our children or our friends -- friends moving to Europe who can't take their cat, friends moving to an apartment building that doesn't allow dogs. Children who underestimated what the commitment of bringing an animal home to live with you entails, and who folded under the weight of it.

Where animals are concerned, I believe in predestination: which animal will live where is always preordained. It doesn't matter where they start life -- they will find you if they are meant to be yours. Their appearance on your doorstep is a sign of your election, and need involve you in no decision-making at all. Just open the door and show them the litter box. They'll take it from there.

People think that life is better when it goes as planned. That making all our own decisions from scratch is necessary to our dignity and well-being, and that it's a terrible thing when we can't. I'm not so sure. I remember making a list late one night while I was babysitting: who I would marry, when I would marry, when I would have my first child, when the second, mapping it all out. Not a damn thing on the list happened as I planned. Not a thing. My decisions were not the key factor in most of the important events of my life. Usually, it was my responses, which would not have been nearly as nimble if I had stuck to the script.

Life is improvisational. Other people have lines in your play. God has lots of lines. You don't know what any of them are in advance. So stay alert. Listen up. And enjoy the show.

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Not familiar with long form improv? Some of the actors you know best cut their teeth and developed their craft in this theatre genre. Visit www.improvisation.ws/main.php
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