Good Morning Crackpots,
I didn’t sleep well last night and I had you all on my mind.
A little apology is in order.
I could not get the thought of how confused and disjointed many people looked (and probably felt) after our long rehearsal for the show last night.
Granted, some of you had a great time, and may not even be aware of what I am about to say.
(…If you are among those that had a fine time, just pretend you aren’t reading this right now and go back to sleep at your desk. Just remember to put the sunglasses back on so everyone thinks you are still getting something “productive” done for the company. If you work remotely, put a mannequin at your desk with the sunglasses on for that screen-sharing webinar and record your voice repeating, “Perhaps… That’s a definite possibility… We can look into it… I’ll have to check and get back to you… YES AND that sounds good.” And then set the recording to loop for all your meetings and calls.)
I want to thank Bill, specifically, who stayed after the rehearsal to tell me what some people had been talking about or feeling. The rehearsal may have come off as chaotic.
This was all done AFTER he fell on his head during class!
(Who said Improv was not a contact sport, eh?!)
I apologize for not disclosing that rehearsal would go long. I assumed (which was a mistake on my part) that since they have gone long the last three times or more, that it was a given. It isn’t a given and I am sorry about that, I should have announced that ahead of time.
I also apologize if the structure of the show and the fact that there are games you are unfamiliar with threw you all for a loop.
Here is where the reassurance and encouragement come in.
Let me explain by making four points about what is going on right now:
There is a difference between the class and the show experience.
We have a wonderful hybrid that few theaters do. We combine the classes/workshops with a troupe putting on a show. Usually, I would hold an audition for the troupe and a certain number of people would be in the show. Those people would hold a separate rehearsal and do the show and it would all be above and beyond the time spent in class.
Because I favor having everyone in the show and because I think many of you are starting to enjoy performing (in spite of some initially not being interested in the performance, but more just the learning), we have the “hybrid” system.
This may or may not be the best, and it might have to change at some point. For now, we are pulling it off.
In addition to this, we also compress time and put it all in a weekly meeting. This is also more challenging than the traditional system, which would allow for more rehearsal time that would be on a different day of the week.
…So with this fact in mind, you guys are doing very well by not falling apart!
“Show Business” is hard.
When we offer shows to the public that are not just “student recitals,” we are in business. We cease to be in the recreational goof-around category, and we enter into the world of “put butts in seats and entertain them” category.
With this in mind, some of you may not has as much “fun”. I am sorry for that too, but I have to be the bringer of harsh reality in this case; the audience is who this is “for,” at least as much as, if not more than, it is “for” us.
That’s a lot of quotation marks!
When I was first starting out and did community theater (not paid), I did truly enjoy it and it was fulfilling in the long-term. Overall, it was probably the time of my life.
However, there were MANY days that were drudgery, boring, inconvenient, and a pain in the ass.
There were people that simply quit. I didn’t because I saw the longer-term vision. The vision was to do something really cool and get to be a part of something bigger…
…EVEN IF I had to sit for two hours waiting for my little part that was only for 30 seconds at the end of Our Town with one line.
The dress rehearsals were ALWAYS Hell. In fact, I don’t remember being in a single show where the tech and dress rehearsals were all smooth and fun and carefree. Usually, people wanted to strangle each other, someone yelled, someone had a nervous breakdown, and someone else threatened to walk off.
My first show was when I was six and I still am in shows today, so that means I am making my evaluation based on hundreds of shows over 34 years of experience.
It was worth it, and I encourage you to see it too. If you love the class better than the show experience, that is fine. Perhaps you will just want to do class and not the show. You are free to make that decision.
For me personally (you can come to your own conclusion for you), the entire purpose of the class is the show. And the show is business and it is hard and different and it will push you. Period.
We need a better Show if we want people to come back (and bring referrals, become successful, pay rent, build a sustainable program, etc.)
Although it would be really easy to NOT throw in the new formats, NOT push a few of you to do games you have never done before at the last minute, NOT add stand-up comedy, NOT throw in skits, and NOT do it in a rush, I am pushing you for a very important reason.
The first reason is that our previous shows, although fun, were NOT good enough to be what I would consider high-quality.
I think you have the ability to compete with the best in Seattle! I really do think you have it in you. We can do this!
…and to do this I am taking a huge calculated risk by pushing you way out of your comfort zone in order to take the show to another level.
Will every aspect of this work this time around? Probably not. But I am gambling on you guys (because I believe in you) that enough of these changes will stick and the audience will come away feeling it was good enough to want to come back and bring a friend.
I think this will make our show better. So I am prepared to take that risk.
Remember, if the show does not go well, everyone (audience and cast) will look to lynch me first. I am the first person who gets blamed and the first head to roll if we fail, so I too have a lot on the line.
By the way, you might not like the “Improv tournament”-style of this show, because it means some people get more stage time than others, or because of some perceived pressure or other reasons.
This is a taste of what other groups do that works.
If you don’t like it, please know that it doesn’t mean our next show will be the same style. Just like the games, you will like some and not like some and the good news is that next time we will likely do a different format anyway so you won’t have to tolerate it for very long.
We need a better show, so we need to raise our game. I believe we are capable of that if we work hard.
This will make you better. That which does not kill you makes you stronger and will probably “kill” the audience.
All the breakthroughs I ever had as a performer came because someone pushed me to do something I didn’t think I could do.
If you felt confused, disjointed, frazzled, chaotic last night, it might be that I was doing a bad job of teaching, or it might be because I am raising the bar and making you jump higher, adapt quicker, learn faster, and tolerate more.
Heck, it might be all of those things!
Regardless, the latter reason is a factor and is true either way!
You might think that you need to practice games a lot and that you only should perform games you have practiced. The problem with that mentality is that it is the antithesis of improv!
Think about it for a second…
If someone asked you what you did, and you said “I do improv,” and then the person tried to improv with you, but you stopped them and said, “Sorry, I can’t do that game with you on the spot like that because we haven’t rehearsed it 5 or more times and I don’t want to screw up or look foolish because I didn’t think about it a lot beforehand,” then how do you think you would sound?
Do you see the irony there?
What you should be focused on is learning the fundamentals so that you can play ANY game, even if we made it up right now and gave you the rules and you had to go on stage and do it. THAT is improv.
Now, I know I am taking an extreme viewpoint for a minute here, just to make a point, and I realize that it is better to be familiar with games. I am not saying we should not learn the games well and rehearse them.
What I am saying is that there is a balance and that you should be willing to do some games you haven’t done right then and there to push yourself, challenge yourself, and truly embrace improvisation from time to time.
Newsflash: Sometimes Improv is actually Improvisational!
Besides, most of the new games for Saturday are near the latter part of the night to challenge the few remaining competitors and raise the stakes for the “tournament” style.
What’s the Bottom Line?
I love you guys. I really am happy to be doing this with you. I hope you stick with it, push through, persevere, learn, grow, and change.
I am not perfect, so I make mistakes. I appreciate that you trust me to guide the ship and I take it seriously. I am on stage with you and I will do whatever I can in my power to make you look good and to keep the show moving and successful. I can help smooth out the bumps.
If you don’t like the way this is going, then you have two options: Go with it and hope it all works out and then gets better next time after we learn, or opt-out of doing the show. I hope you pick the former, and not the latter. I hope you stick with it and keep doing shows even if the rehearsal process is hell.
I will work hard to improve the formats of the shows. If I create a tough format, a stupid format, don’t give you enough to prepare, don’t organize you well enough, run the rehearsal until 9 instead of 8:30… Well, that’s all on me and I apologize ahead of time and promise to try better next time in every area I can…
We can be the greatest improvisers in the world!