I remember loving art all my life. To this day I still have stacks of drawings I did as a child. When I found performance art I realized I was really in love. My confirmation was my childhood rendition of Golde, in Fiddler on the Roof with my Teen Group at age 15; We went all out.

Then the biggest gig I ever had was being mommy. Not only does that one still happen each and every day, I hear it never actually quite goes away. A never-ending role.  I love it. Continuing through my mommy-hood role, maybe underlying, but always there remained the desire to perform.  I suppose I shoved it under the rug with the dog hair, crumbs and long forgotten Legos, while my children were so busy growing. I knew my time would come. I would return to a stage.

As my family grew, it became time to choose organized sports. That is the natural progression after all. We did eight years of soccer, two years of footsol, four years of softball, and five years and counting of dance. And those were just the ones that stuck.  Lasting the longest and by far my personal favorite, was nine years of taekwondo. This was me and my older daughter. Competition I found was a way to return to a stage: I found love! Well actually I found a love-hate stage relationship. “Being on stage” was actually a euphemism for “competing in a ring”.  Don’t get me wrong, I strongly understand the value and necessity of competition, but humph! Where was my safe place? Where were my warm, loving compliments? Oh no. You either won the medal or you were the first loser.  Sometimes I had wished I was a kid under 10 so I could at least get a participation medal. I can’t tell you how many tears I had shed. But I was getting closer.

I knew there was something out there, but it wasn’t until I had participated a few times that I realized how special and specialized Blacktop’s stage was. Apparently, I only needed the physical act of “jumping up” on the stage. I definitely felt like I was closer. With my children still growing, this is such a perfect step. The workshops allow me to be on a stage and the rest of the students make up one fine audience. We can do some really outrageous, fun stuff and I’ve found my safe place! After all, a room full of people who show up for a variation of the same reasons as me?  Matches made in heaven.

More importantly, is that while we are all having fun, we are all exercising our brains. One of the things they say about being a mother is that you give your children your brain cells in the womb. Ugh, true. Never mind that college education, sometimes my brain seems to have taken a trip to Candy Land and forgotten the way home. That is why I love the simplicity of some of the games we play. Learn in a minute, life time to master. That is if there truly is mastery. One fun such game is the Alphabet Game; two people converse, each next statement starts with the next letter of the alphabet, back and forth. Sound easy? Try it. Which letter did you drop?

 All of improvisation requires you to think and be on your feet. The brain, while not a muscle, still requires constant stimulation to stay active.  If we don’t use it, it will atrophy.  With so many people’s family history involving Alzheimer’s and dementia these days, keeping your mind active is more important than ever.  I exercise my brain daily. You should see the time I took up knitting; requires the left and right brain to work together! It cost me over $200 and three different sessions to make an evening handbag. Ouch. I still haven’t used the damn thing.  I like my new plan better. I like being on stage and I love improvisation: not only is my brain getting a work-out, no one has made me cry in the corner.


Lisa Wildman lives with her husband, two teenage girls, two dogs and a cat in the foothills of Placer County. Lisa enjoys Taekwondo, reading, time with her family, staying active, and most recently improv. Keep up with her adventures in her personal blog.