What is this?

 In improv theater we have a game called: What is this?

For example, What is this? Yes of course it is a Trader Joe’s plastic tub for chocolate chip cookies. But what else is it?

  1. A container for compostable veggie scraps.
  2. An under-sink container for all those pilfered soaps and shampoos
  3. A mini greenhouse for veggie starts
  4. The beginnings of a Halloween costume – maybe a kid being an astronaut
  5. Put under a houseplant to not drip on your carpet when you water
  6. Poke holes in the bottom and use to sprinkle those tiny lettuce or carrot seeds evening for less thinning, more veggies
  7. A palette for an artist
  8. Decant paint from a gallon can to paint a room 

What do you see? Can you take this list to a dozen?

I’m sure classroom teachers or mechanics or carpenters or artists or farmers or parents could come up with even more.

In Blessing the Hands that Feed Us, there’s a section on essential kitchen tools for food prep as we shift from opening boxes, bags, and jars to cooking from the contents of our CSA box. In it I suggest you can replace (do without if you will) a popcorn popper, an instapot, a deep fat fryer, a rice cooker, even a bread maker with one good pot with a lid.

Some people panic as the cascading effects of Climate Disruptions dawn on them.

  • What will we eat?
  • Will we have electricity?
  • How will we heat our houses?
  • Will we and our food sources parch? Drown?
  • Should I move to the country? Do I know anything about living in the country?
  • I have a lawn, maybe i can grow food?
  • Do I cling to civilization or head for the hills?
  • Do I get a gun? A camper?
  • Do I go North? South? Stay put?

If this line of thinking hasn’t gripped you yet, just read reliable climate news.

Using the “What is it?” improv game can lower panic and increase resilience.

Look at your house, your yard, your car, your boat, your power sources, your 10-mile walking distance circle around where you lay your head. If infrastructure or supply chains weaken – think of the NYC subway recently – your 10-mile circle may be your lifeboat.

What else can your house be? A hostel? A rental for income as you migrate? A neighborhood canning and processing kitchen? A cowork space with solar panels on the roof for people who’ve lost power? A community library? A year’s supply of stashed food? Truly a castle with locks on all doors and a moat?

What else can your yard be? An orchard? A bird and bee sanctuary? A goat and chicken barnyard? A campground? Parked out for respite for the beauty starved? A parking lot? A carbon farm?

You get the picture. I hope. Even if you don’t agree with the IPCC recent warnings that we have reached tipping points, it’s a fun game about everything you interact with daily.

Our mediated consumer culture has rendered us inept and blind to creative possibilities. Improvisational theater breaks up rigidity and makes you mentally and physically agile. It will also reveal the blanks in our competencies that we can fill now through books, videos, skill building workshops, networking.

Adapting to a different climate isn’t a joke or an improv game. But being able to look at anything and find a dozen other uses for it helps you now and later, helps others, and helps keep your spirits bright.

What is this?



One comment

  1. Thanks for this post. In this situation, we are looking to leaders to inspire bold change, and to provide us with magic bullet solutions, but the thing that resonates about your post for me is that people will have to take 1000 independent actions in their own unique lives. Improv is something we can all do, even without leaders to guide us.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *