Josh Lenn is a professional actor, teacher and artistic director of International Theater Stockholm (IT’S) which offers shows, classes and corporate workshops. As an actor he works in film, TV, video games, voice over and is regularly on stage performing improv. He recently performed a completely improvised TED talk at TEDx Stockholm 2015. He is currently performing in Lost in Translation, Mission Improvible, Troubadour Tales and Kat & Josh with Katarina Wahlberg. He feels grateful to collaborate with Katarina and all the other talented members of the IT’S ensemble. More about Josh: https://joshlenn.com/
When I was starting out as an actor in San Francisco I took all kinds of different acting classes and improv was a big part of that. My goal was to work in film and scripted theater, but I loved improv and I felt it gave me so much confidence and tools for other kinds of acting. Then I had an improv class that scared the crap out of me. The atmosphere did not feel safe and supportive. I felt that I had to be “good” in order to impress the teacher, and if I did not do »good« it became a reflection of who I was as an improviser. I had a really tough time in this class and I started getting nervous before each session and I could feel my work suffering. Doubt set in, and my courage and playfulness started decreasing. My previous experiences with improv had been joyous and I felt like I had grown a lot, and now I was in my worst place as an improviser. It hurt.
These feelings are almost guaranteed to happen in some form throughout an acting career, and they are amazing growth opportunities, but I felt so vulnerable after this experience, that I stuck with scripted theater exclusively and put improv aside for the next few years.
After working with scripted theater for a few years I was itching for the freedom of improv so I went back. Luckily time had passed and the wounds of the past had healed and I quickly got back to a place where I felt confident and daring. I felt hungry to get on stage and get my butt in class and learn. My regular teacher missed a class and the substitute was my very first improv teacher, Laura Derry, and she reminded of one of the most powerful tools in life; generosity.
She led us in an exercises which to this day is the most profound exercise I have ever done, it is called »circle of love«. You simply sit in a circle and go around one by one and shower each person with love and compliments and the person receiving just says »thank you«. Hearing positive, authentic compliments from your peers was powerful. You feel seen, and you are provided a deeper understanding of what you are doing that is positively effecting others and the group. However, the most transformative aspect of this exercise is giving. Giving compliments to others and telling your peers what is amazing about their work feels the best. This exercise creates an amazing space where people feel seen and supported. Everyone from beginners to professionals benefit from this exercise.
True generosity is the act of giving without expecting anything in return. Motivational speaker and life strategist Tony Robbins says, “The secret of living is giving”, and I love that because I have noticed in my life when I am generous towards others and living in that state good things tend to happen in my life.
Our goal is to create amazing theater that is both hilarious and authentic, that allows real connection. By creating a loving, generous environment we allow each other to step into our greatness and create a space for that.