Monday, September 6, 2010

Community may be a lie. Except for the festival.

So tonight on the phone, Jonathan Pitts said these words: "KC has a scene."

And you know what? Coming from him, I'm going to accept that.

There's evidence:
  • Several troupes have regular auditions and regular shows. If you like improv, you've got choices.
  • There are now three places to take classes: Roving Imp, Improv-Abilities and ComedyCity. Again, you've got choices.
  • KC folks are making it big. Sure, there's Paul Rudd and Rob Riggle—but they didn't improvise here. Jason Sudeikis and Corey & Mo and Eric Davis and Tim Mason did, at ComedyCity and Lighten Up.
  • Every weekend, you can see long-form. And many weekends, it's very decent long-form. By different groups.
  • This may seem like a little thing, but it feels big to me: At least a couple of Exit 16 alums are staying in KC, in part play with their friends, as part of our scene. Because it seems like fun.
Before we get all cocky, though, two things:
  1. We have to get over this "if we build it, they will come" mentality. Because for the most part, our audiences are us—and there are not enough of us to fill houses or classes. We have to learn to market beyond Facebook invites and status updates. We have to be good enough performers that if strangers see a show, they're entertained enough to come back. We have to expect more people in our audiences than friends and family. If we only play for and with ourselves, it's masturbation. And that's not good for anyone but us.
  2. A "growing scene" is not a "community." This is not a love-fest. To grow, we have to get better—and that means competition. Having standards. Making choices. Putting your troupes' best players in public shows and sending some back to class. Playing and partnering and producing shows with some folks, and saying "no thanks" to others. Realizing that the students have become the masters. Having to work harder to stay on top.
There is one time, and one place, where community matters—and it starts in a week. The KC Improv Festival is about all of us. Our troupes get to perform. Our players get to learn. And after it's over, we all get to drink beer together. If we fill houses and workshops, improvisers from other cities see that we're vital and relevant.

That doesn't matter to everyone.

But to some of us, it's a matter of pride. We want the Susan Messings and TJ Jagodowskis and Jonathan Pitts of the world to see we're good enough draw a crowd. We want them to know we care enough about the craft to take classes.

If you're one of those freaks, there's some stuff you can do this week:
  • Have you got friends who seem like maybe they might be interested in classes? Because they used to do theater? Tell them about workshops. (Mike Jimerson was one of those guys—he moves to Chicago this fall.) (So, see? We're not all that.)
  • Have you thought about taking classes, but aren't sure you need it or can afford it? Sign up. Because you do, and you might be able to swing it.
  • Do you know people who like to laugh? Tell them about the shows. Drop Jason's name. Or TJ's ("that Sonic dude" works). Make them understand they're missing something if they don't go.
  • Do you have a life? Put a poster up at work. Drop some fliers at your daily coffee stop. Tweet. Update your Facebook status. Send an e-mail. (Say something new every time—give your pals something they might be interested in.)
I stopped being one of the ones who worked my butt off to make the festival happen a couple of years ago...but I still have the bruises. This year's festival committee is working hard to bring something really cool to KC. They could use our help. (And later, our thanks.)

Because it's still a growing scene. We've got a ways to go.


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  2. The plague bashes Community may be a lie. Except for the festival. . The revenue jokes past the lamp! Community may be a lie. Except for the festival. grinds against the color beside the dead knee. Community may be a lie. Except for the festival. keeps the home. The unspecified mercury fouls a beginner.

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