Sunday, August 23, 2009

So of course I write this.

The two most important things I have to do tonight:
  1. Finish working on my part of a research project for work.
  2. Plan Exit 16's first rehearsal on Tuesday.
So I've spent a few hours working up some stuff for my Thunderdome team, and hey! Blog entry!

I've been emailing back and forth with Ed about an email he sent to persuade people to vote for his troupe in KMBC's A-List competition (I, of course, believe you should vote for Tantrum). The discussion includes the notion that "best" might mean doing more than just putting on great shows, but also working to support the improv community in Kansas City.

There are three troupes doing a hell of a lot of work that makes a positive difference for groups beyond their own. In alphabetical order:
  • Improv-Abilities (to whom I'm eternally grateful) took over running the KC Improv Festival this year. I still believe there wasn't another troupe who could (or would) have done as good a job. Their members (along with folks from a few other troupes) have been deeply involved in festival planning since City 3 revived it two years ago. The return of the festival was arguably the first major step in the creation of KC's improv community, and as the number of groups grows, it becomes more work and more responsibility. Limited time slots mean harder decisions—even some of the troupes whose members are on the planning committee aren't performing. They spend their weekends meeting about logistics, their weekdays setting up parties and dealing with everything from transportation to finding workshop space, and their evenings reminding troupes to live up to the promises they made when the applied for the festival (like festival plugs in shows and on websites).
  • Roving Imp is putting up their first improv festival in Bonner Springs in October. Along with that, John puts up the only regular classes in KC, and works with anyone who's interested in taking classes to find ways to make it happen, from trading labor to helping out at shows. He invites other troupes to play in his space, pulls members of different groups together to play in new shows, and does whatever else he can to instill a love of playing and respect for the craft in anyone who comes through.
  • The Trip Fives are putting up some of the most innovative shows in KC, and have taken the idea of community and run with it. Many local troupes have been invited to share the stage with the Trip Fives in shows at the Westport Coffeehouse, and Improv Thunderdome has created (and sustained) more buzz than any improv-related event outside the festival. It hinges on a brilliant marketing gimmick—because the audience votes for the winner, the troupes themselves (sometimes gleefully) bear much of the weight of drawing crowds. (Though I don't for a minute mean to minimize the work Jared does to organize and promote the show—his ass has been almost completely worked off.) Now Ed has brought back Bare TV, a multimedia experiment that brings together improvisers, writers and musicians.
And, of course, there are other groups who simply put up the best shows they can (and that isn't simple at all). Does that make them any less fabulous or worthy? To me, that seems a little silly.

The nice thing about a community is that everyone contributes in his or her own way...and those contributions change over time and vary by the role improv plays in people's lives and what they have the resources to do.

The nice thing is that, at its best, improv—whether within a community or a troupe or a single scene—is stone soup. It depends on what every single person brings. Groups may do more or less to support the community. Individuals take different roles in the day-to-day work of their troupes. Players may lead the way in one scene and make sound effects in the next.

We'll step on each others' toes a little, and piss each other off every now and then, and go head to head in competitions for audiences, best-of titles and shiny plastic belts.

But the nice thing is that, these days, we can each play the part that works best for us.*

*Note to self: Maybe embroider this somewhere.