It takes a village

Last night, my Niagara-based improv ensemble premiered our competitive-style “Improv Fallout” show for a standing-room-only house in downtown St. Catharines. It was, to be brief, incredible.

Mainly, I wanted to point out what else went behind the production, because it was one of the first times in my career as a comedy producer that I had a team of individuals around me, supporting a project so enthusiastically that ALL these things happened:

  • First of all, they actually invited people to come friggin’ see them perform, so we packed the house ’til it was, as mentioned standing-room-only.
  • When given the rehearsal schedule, some performers requested additional rehearsal time to ensure their performance would be up to snuff.
  • They showed up for rehearsal like, AN HOUR before their call to help set up without being asked.
  • They created an art wall for the show JUST FOR FUN.

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  • One of the performer’s partners agreed to work the Box Office.
  • One of the performer’s partners took really great photos during the show.
  • A performer who WASN’T EVEN ON THE SHOW agreed to collect email addresses so we could continue to spread the word about our group and ran back and forth to help make sure the show ran smoothly again, without being asked.
  • One of the performers fearlessly approached people asking for suggestions before the show started.
  • One of the performers hand-crafted voting circles with one colour on one side, and the other on the other side, which was challenging she admitted, but worth it because they looked so good!
  • Some of our performers took to social media before, during and after the show to share the experience with others.
  • Some of our performers learned how to use social media for the show.
  • One of the performers went to Fabricland for the first time in her life to actually buy fabric to be used to discern the different teams on stage.
  • Our tech created a special playlist for the show to get the audience feelin’ funky.
  • One of the performers risked his neck to drape the curtains in such a way as to make the space look a bit more ascetically pleasing.
  • One of the performers drove a long long way to come to the show even though she’d worked all day and had to go right back immediately after the performance.
  • One of the performers refused payment until it was physically forced onto him. (That’s right, the performers were paid.)
  • All of the performers were super supportive of one another on stage as well as off stage and, even after being “voted off” the show stayed intensely engaged with participating in the show with members of the audience and online.
  • I’m probably forgetting a million more things…

 

It’s INCREDIBLE to know that this wonderful collaboration is what it can feel like to create live comedy.

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Improv tics.

We all have ’em. The little things about this craft we love that just rub us the wrong way. Let me tell you a little about mine, if I may.

*Brie steps forward, a spotlight shines down on her as she addresses the audience, as though the rest of the people on stage disappeared and therefore, no longer matter.*

THAT’S IT! RIGHT THERE! Stop it! Cut it out!

Let me remind you, improvisers:

  1. You’re not the star;
  2. Your job is to make your partner look good; and
  3. This isn’t friggin’ Glee. Calm down and collaborate.

It’s not often we get a super-long time on stage to play. Unless you’re one of the more experienced teams or duos, you have limited time up there, and you’re on the clock. It’s better to spend that time connecting with your partner(s), not tooting your own horn centre stage, ignoring everything and everybody else around you!

If I wanted to watch one person talk at me, I’d turn on CNN.

This is improv, I want to see you make discoveries with your partners. I want to see you create something together. The audience wants to see you build worlds together.

Sure, there are a couple exceptions. It’s pretty much mandatory that you step out and give a ‘lil monologue when playing any “film noir” or Oscar Moment scene. And obviously the storyteller of an Armando has to take centre stage and speak to the audience to tell their monologue. Or maybe you’re doing solo improv, lawd have mercy, why would you? But maybe you are.

What I see when an improviser goes rogue and sacrifices the scene for their moment in the spotlight is someone who doesn’t trust either themselves or their partner. Which is fine. We’re all along this journey and there’s no mistakes in improv. Got it. Save it. Move on. Now stop that.

Look at your freaking partner, in their freaking eyes. In their freaking face. That’s where you’re going to find the information you need. The answers to your terrified mind-questions. You’re not going to find it in the audience staring back at you impatiently. You’re not going to find it at the back of the room in the booth. You’re certainly not going to find it in the blinding lights above.

You’re gong to discover it in your partner. Please please PLEASE don’t leave them behind.

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much. —Helen Keller