Performing in German(y) - The comfort zone stretch


‘Can I still go back?’ I wondered.
But I knew.
The answer was ‘Nein!’

When I am training a group of improvisers or bankers or teenagers, I am constantly pulling them out of their comfort zone. Because as you might know: that is where the magic happens.

Being in the business of comfort zone stretching, it makes sense to embark upon scary things myself. But I am also only human. There is a reason why I think scary things are scary. And I don’t want to go near whatever scares me.

But there I was: on a stage in Frankfurt with 2 German improvisers and a fully packed house of German spectators. About to play a show. In German. Jawohl, in der Deutschen Sprache.

My German high school teacher would have been proud. Oh yeah, because that’s how long ago I learned to speak it. My current level can be labeled as ‘fair’. Not a level that makes me a confident conversationalist in German.


But the improv stage changes everything.

Once on the stage I fell back on my long training of faking it until you’re making it. I was just as present as my amazing fellow players Steffi and Adriano. Just with fewer words, more physicality and a wide and colorful range of grammatical and linguistic errors.

Including Steffi’s favorite: “Warum ich so eine lange Nase habe? Weil ich damit gut rauchen musste”

The show was one big ‘high’ for me. We played games, we did scenes, we performed a longform, we danced, we sang, I chatted with the audience, I spoke all my 3 languages and used verbal, physical and emotional evenly. It was all challenging and wonderful at the same time.


Not in the least because I felt so supported by my talented scene partners. They not only made sense of all I did, they also felt comfortable enough to mock my language skills and Dutch nationality. That truly felt as a compliment.

Another fun moment was when the scene was set in a sci-fi movie. The storyteller said my character, Isis the computer voice, would now give detailed instructions to the main character. Of course I had no choice but to say: “Dieses…. Dort….” (This…. There….) Having a main character who thinks this is indeed the best instruction possible, made the scene so very enjoyable.


Being limited in language is an offer. I knew that already but how exhilarating it is to feel it again. To throw yourself out there with not knowing what the hell you are doing and conquering it all. I think that indeed can only happen with staying positive, building on what is there, trusting and inspiring your partner, gloriously failing and saying yes.

Next time someone asks you if you want to do something you think is scary, say yes. Get yourself into the position where you wonder if you can go back. That is where the magic happens.


Vielen Dank to Steffi, for ALL you did. Also danke schön to Für Garderobe Keine Haftung: Adriano, Ulrich, Michael, Ida and to all the improvisers in the workshop, Franzi, Clemens, Stefan, and last but certainly not least: Laura.