Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Recess.

I love rehearsal. Maybe even more than shows. 

OK, not more, but differently.

And I've loved it since the first rehearsal with ComedySportz three days after I finished my first class. (Though rehearsals then were a little more stressful: I was young, there were cute boys, and I actually took showers and reapplied makeup before going so I could be at my most adorable.) (I was a nerd. Am a nerd. “Adorable” is relative.)

Anyway.

Of course improv is about the product. Once paying customers get involved, it’s not about art anymore. But in rehearsal, you’re preparing to create the product—and for me, the way to do that is to focus completely on the process.

Rehearsal is the workout. Shows are the big game. Athletes spend the majority of their time practicing; if they can’t stand the drills and scrimmages, they’re going to hate 90 percent of what they do. I’m guessing the happiest, most satisfied athletes get started because they love to play the game—not just because they want the cheering and the trophies at the end. And they remember that even when they’re winning all the time.

In every right-brain/left-brain test I’ve ever taken, I end up smack in the middle. Rehearsal appeals to me because it’s the perfect mix of pure creativity and cold-hearted critique. You’re honing technique. Building muscle memory. Earning trust. You’re pushing your limits, trying new things and taking risks. You have the chance to analyze forms, pick scenes apart and even be in your head that you can’t afford when you’re on stage.

If you do it right, you spend an equal amount of time exhilarated and frustrated. If you never screw up, you’re not pushing yourself hard enough. And to really, truly allow yourself to screw up, you have to work hard at playing.

And there’s the fun part.

You get to play. Usually with your friends. You spend 2-3 hours (my ideal is three—because that’s how long it takes to push past the easy stuff) doing what you love with people you like. Sometimes, it’s where you do your best stuff—and a lot of the time, it’s where you laugh the hardest.

When I did this for a living, it sometimes felt like work. But now work is what I do in the office. That’s the place where I sit in meetings in stuffy rooms for hours a day…where I create within the confines of a Powerpoint presentation…where I go because I’m obligated to.

Especially now that it doesn't pay my bills, improv is pure fun. Every single part of it.

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