But I have another theory: Collectively, we don't have a whole lot of intellectual curiosity about improv. We've grown quite a bit over the last three years, and we've gotten a little complacent.
- The last time someone posted an improv site/resource was slightly more than two years ago. Joe tried to get a conversation about narrative structure going back in February—the only ones with serious contributions were Jill and Tommy.
- Even if you go off the boards, the KC improv blogosphere is awfully quiet about theory and technique, unless you count me and Josh getting into it in my comments section every now and then.
- A remarkably low percentage of KC improvisers charging audiences to watch them perform have ever taken a real improv class...or even a festival workshop...or worked with a director/coach besides their own. And of those who haven't, many assume they couldn't learn anything new from a local class or a beginner session. Or that it's not worth taking the same festival instructor twice.
- We don't seem to devote much time to experimentation. I'm not talking about learning edits and techniques and forms that already exist. I'm talking about spending chunks of time spent not preparing for a specific show, but working to discover your troupe's voice and vibe.
Mostly, I was struck by how far ahead of us they are.
Their best groups made moves that probably wouldn't occur to our best groups. They didn't miss anything. Their patterns were more complex, their listening was more advanced, and their characters were richer. They played with a level of sophistication that's just out of our reach.
Don't get me wrong—I'm not saying we suck. We've grown a lot over the last three years. More groups are more likely to put on funnier shows for bigger audiences. We're putting some pretty hilarious stuff out there.
ADDED: And from the average audience POV, lots of us are doing good stuff. Of course, I'm not talking to audience members...But answer this honestly (especially you long-timers): How often are you blown out of your chair by a character choice or game move that can only be described as brilliant? When was the last time you saw a show that made you think "WOW. That's beyond what I imagined improv could be"? How many shows make you feel like you're watching someone run across a tightrope, blindfolded, without a net?
ADDED: Again, from an audience perspective, these things happen in a lot of shows. I'm asking the world-weary improvisers who have seen and/or been in thousands of shows.Eh. Maybe it's fine. Maybe putting up good, solid shows is enough of a goal. Maybe this is as good as it gets.
Obviously, I don't believe that's true. At one point or another, we've all seen what truly great improv looks like. We're just going to have to dig a hell of a lot deeper to get there. New improvisers will have to study harder, and experienced improvisers will have to push themselves further.
Or we can just wait, and hope it happens eventually.
*Of course, what they have that we don't is an established school teaching its own take on improv theory in regular, multi-level classes. (Help us, Roving Imp—you're our only hope.) If I was any sort of blogger, I'd be able to find previous rants about this.