Thursday, May 29, 2008

Enough with the niceness

So here's one of the reasons I think self-directed troupes can be at best difficult and at worst dangerous. (Should point out that I'm in one here.)

But first, a tangent: At my actual job, there's a corporate hierarchy. Once work is created, several (or, as it sometimes seems, a gazillion) people review the work before it goes to press. There's a pecking order—one writes, another edits, another reviews, another approves, etc., etc., etc. But we're working on an exercise right now where we all edit each other, level-blind—which is new. After some initial hesitation, we're starting to get bolder. I peeked at some of the work today, and the editing is getting more confident and more aggressive. As we build trust—in our own skills and others' opinions—the feedback we give each other becomes less threatening and more useful. I hope.

Getting and giving feedback on writing can feel pretty personal until you get used to it. Getting and giving feedback on improv is even tougher.

When a troupe is self-coached, there's a very real danger the players aren't hearing what they need to hear. It's incredibly difficult—and in many ways, inappropriate—to critique folks you're often in scenes with. Making it work means creating a really, really safe space for each other—both as part-time directors and performers. This gets easier as you gain experience—on stage and off, with each other and with other groups. 

The thing that made me think of this? This six-page thread on, fed by players who don't (or don't often) get on stage together, vs. this (admittedly newer) thread on the City 3 forums, read by players in the same groups and small community.

Two things are going on, at least: 
  1. Calling out things members of your troupe do. 
  2. Calling out things you've seen members of other troupes do. 
We need to call this stuff out when we see it on stage...and not wait to do it in the forums. 


  1. I understand where you are going with this, but I can't see how you can compare the Yesand thread to the City3 thread. It's apples and oranges. Two completely different worlds, though both dealing with the same subject, still universes apart.

    Not everyone in KC has had the experience that the majority of people on Yesand have had. The people from Chiacgo, New York and LA have classes and workshops out the wazoo. We want it here, but don't have it.

    I think people here know if they are good or not, without needing other improvisers to tell them so.

    And if they don't, eh, that's their problem.

  2. If everyone knew their own problems, there'd be no need for directors or instructors.

    I'm just saying that I WONDER if sometimes we put ourselves in situations—as directors and performers—where we're not giving the feedback that needs to be given or getting the feedback that needs to be got.

  3. What's more important: Feedback from the audience or feedback from other improvisers?

  4. Depends on your standards.

    Audiences will laugh at pimps and bits and gimmicks that totally screw over your fellow improvisers. They'll also laugh harder when they're predisposed to like you—witness any mediocre show with friends and family in the audience. Audience feedback is an important part of your 360°...

    but it's not necessarily going to make you better. And if it's the only thing you listen to, it'll likely make you worse.

  5. Well, all troupes perform to entertain the audience, not other improvisers. So if people what feedback, they should ask for it. If you want to give troupes feedback, but they don't ask for it, then you should bite your lip, smile, and nod. We've seen what unwanted criticism can do to an already fragile community.

    I'm not stating that what I'm saying is right. It's just like, my opinion, man.


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Now c'mon. Pick a fight.