Without going into specifics, I've been feeling judgey and mean-spirited and snobby about the improv world lately. It's not a place I like to be. When my sister pointed out that I'm ruining it for myself, I wanted to justify my way out of her argument...but yeah. As usually happens when she makes some bold, audacious comment about my mental state, she's right.
So here are the four things that happened this week:
- Mother-@#$*ing midyear reviews: 13 of them—which is more than I've ever had to write, and I procrastinated like a pro. My place of employment used to see managers disappear for a week or more to work on writing reviews, so they've come up with ways to simplify the process, like pointing out that if you talk to people all the time, you won't have lots of saved-up points to make. The cool thing, not related to improv in any way: I realized that even when I'm specifically placed in a role of having to judge a performance, there's an opportunity to learn more than I pass on. Even when I had to do some coaching, the results were rich, illuminating two-way conversations that reminded me how much I sincerely adore the people I work with.
- Roving Imp classes: I get to take one more next week, then have to trade being in class for teaching Exit 16. And just to make that even harder, Monday's class was the best yet. John has really gotten to know all of the students well, and that's allowing him to push us harder. He does it with a terrific sense of humor ("I'm going to stop you here. A piece of my mind is trying to commit suicide.") that, strangely, doesn't soften the criticism—just makes it more fun to hear.
- Green Day concert: In a quick check for a review of their tour, a KC review came up first—and happens to be written by a guy who sits about 20 feet from me. (It captures the energy of the show a lot better than the Star's take.) The energy, attitude and love for the audience made me wonder—how the hell can we use it as inspiration for a little show in the coffeehouse?
- Thunderdome rehearsal for Team Number 9: Steve Jones and I grew up together in Lighten Up. Nick Rigoli and I have played at ComedyCity and on the Thunderdome team Burnin' Sternums. Erik Johnson kicks ass in CounterClockwise Comedy; I don't know that we've ever even officially been introduced. Ed Doris is our coach, and is one of maybe five improvisers in KC who is completely comfortable (and probably too happy about) telling me to shut the hell up and do what he says.
Ed's take on rehearsing a piece is very different from mine. I tend to start with exercises and exploration, discovering the show from what we create together. Based on what he's seen of us and a few conversations, he laid out a (typically Dorisian long-winded) description of what he envisioned, and immediately (well, after the inanely verbose description) threw us into it.
And it worked. He's coached at least a couple of teams, and recognized that if you're working with people who haven't played together, you have to leave plenty of room for the weird. Now we've got three more sessions to make the form (a mix of in-character set-ups and scenes that I'm not going to get any more specific about) work for us—and figure out how far we can push it.
Then we went for beer. Because that's what troupes do.
Sure, I can ruin my own fun. But I can un-ruin it, too.