Sunday, August 9, 2009

Possible? Maybe.

Scoring a point for Josh's side, my sister Lori said today, "Maybe you've ruined improv for yourself."

I was testing a theory on her. Last week, some pals and I were talking about reasons we see improv shows. Some of the reasons I go:
  1. Because you know it'll kick ass.
  2. Because you're supporting friends in the cast.
  3. Because you're curious.
  4. Because you're supporting the KC improv community.
  5. Because you can learn something, even from a bad show.
Like just about every one we know, I've done all five. Used to be, you had to head out of state for a solid #1; now, as troupes get more experience and higher standards, there are more and more safe bets in KC. Number 2 takes some effort on the troupe's part to generate reviews, recommendations or rumors. And as the community gets bigger and broader and looser, I feel less compelled to do #4 than I used to, unless it's combined with #2 or #3.

It's #5 I was asking Lori about.

I do feel like you can learn something from watching bad shows—to a point. (And have babbled about it before—all the way at the bottom of the post.) When I take the Exit 16 to Chicago, it never bothers me to see one lousy set at an iO Harold show. Sometimes it just proves that even people with solid training have off nights. Lots of times, though, it validates what the kids have been learning about vulnerability, truthfulness and commitment; they see that detached ironic self-awareness doesn't work out well for anyone, no matter how clever they might be.

Seeing great troupes fail can still teach something, even if it's just from a purely academic point of view. You feel a little like a forensic scientist, picking through the rubble of lost opportunities and missed connections to see what went so horribly wrong.

But what I asked Lori was whether—in any of the things she's interested in—you can get as much out of watching something bad as something good. The closest example she came up with was a pro tennis player who says he learns more about his game when he loses than when he wins.

That wasn't really what I was getting at. And I was explaining that to her when she said, "Maybe you've ruined improv for yourself."

I immediately denied it, obviously.

As my mom, dad and sister often do—she has a point. I haven't stopped enjoyed doing it, but I don't have as much fun watching it. I've become more snobby and less gracious. Which I think is more about my competitive nature than it is about the shows. When I'm improvising, I want to kick the most ass. When I'm in a troupe, I want it to be the best. When I'm promoting a show, I want more people to come to it than any others.

You can see how some of these things would be unhelpful.

I'm letting a bunch of stuff that's not about the work get in the way.
My little sister is right. Do you have any idea how annoying that is?

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