So [David] pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard.
Achish [King of Gath] said to his servants, “Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me? Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?
1 Samuel 21:13-15 (NIV)
Improvisation, or “Improv” as it’s known in theatre circles, is a well known form of theatre in which the actors create their character and make up a scene live and in the moment on stage. Improv usually takes the form of exercises and short comedic sketches like you see in shows such as Whose Line Is It, Anyway? Even seriously trained actors struggle with Improv, and many actors avoid it like the plague because it can be incredibly difficult to pull off successfully. Successful Improv actors must be quick on their feet and essentially fearless at giving themselves to a part in the moment.
I mentioned in a previous post that I love David for being both a warrior and an accomplished poet, musician and songwriter. After reading today’s chapter, you can ad actor to the list. David appears to have had a natural knack at Improv. When faced with the realization that he might be taken prisoner by the King of Gath, David goes into Improv mode and begins to act like a mad man. He gives himself fully to the part, even letting saliva run down his beard. Obviously, David must have known or observed insane people before. Perhaps he was imitating what King Saul was like in his more insane episodes. Wouldn’t that be an ironic twist?
It is said the desperate times call for desperate measures. David obviously realized that he was in a desperate predicament, and was willing to risk doing a little Improv to try and get out of it. It worked. King Achish wanted nothing to do with the “insane” David and let him go.
I have always had a deep appreciation for David. Reading today’s story again only deepens my appreciation. David was a capable, gifted, and resourceful individual. There is so much I can learn from him and his example.