Monday, September 15, 2008

KC Improv Festival After-Action Review, Part II

Why more than one After Action Review post? Because I know I’ll think of more.

So a few years ago, when I talked to some old Funny Outfit friends about bringing the festival back, we set out some criteria. Three I remember very clearly have guided a lot of my thinking as we put these last two KCiF’s together:

  • We don’t lose money. When you’re running a festival with no budget, this one guides a lot of your decisions. (Our budget rule last year, for example: Expenditures should not exceed the amount Trish is willing to put on her credit card and not get back.) We didn’t lose—and after expenses, I-A should have some seed money for next year’s event.
  • Everyone on the planning committee gets to participate in everything they want to. In years past, I spent most of the day answering the phone while everyone else took workshops. Instead of watching shows, I paced. Screw that.
  • We’re all still friends when it’s over. Hey! We are! And probably better ones, even, than when we started. This festival is the reason I know Pete as well as I do—and that probably has something to do with getting to be in Tantrum. 

I should point out that I’ve been mocked for starting meetings by reviewing our mission and objectives. My craving for analysis, charts, questions and bullet points has been questioned more than once.

But here’s the thing about putting up a festival: It’s easy for your eyes to get bigger than your stomach. It’s easy to get excited and say “yes” when the clear-headed answer is “oh 
hell no.” It’s easy to make decisions because something seems like it would be fun, cool or popular—or just because that particular answer is easier to give in the moment.

All that stuff you figure out up front—the vision, mission, objectives, guidelines—makes your decisions for you when you’re not in any condition to think. Because you write things down and agree on them when you’re clear-headed and the stakes are at their lowest, it makes you smarter when you’re faced with tough calls. It’s like having a designated driver for the whole festival. (Oooh! Not a bad idea.)

But it’s probably time for some of the objectives to change—and that’s another reason it’ll be good for the festival for me to step out. The majority of improvisers in KC have more experience than I did when my partner and I started Lighten Up (after one year with ComedySportz) and started the festival (after one year with Lighten Up). For it to grow, it needs fresh perspectives and new ideas.

Who knows how much or how little it’ll change? But if you’ve got ideas, you can send them

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