Here I am, with less than a week until my first performance in a long form improvisational comedy show. The show I’m in is called The Journal and parodies the tragic romances of Nicholas Sparks. I’ve had a weird experience with this show so I thought I would share it.
Warning: Logic does not apply
My experience with The Journal is based in my subconscious and the inner workings of my brain working against me. It is easy to apply logic and wonder why I had any issues. Shush! Logic does not apply here! Though it did finally lead me to the proper solution I was not being conscious of the way my emotions were leading me around.
Since moving back to Seattle I had decided to really focus on performing improv, rather than just taking classes, a reality. This led me to auditioning for Jet City Improv and ComedySportz Seattle. I had a lot of fun at the auditions but I didn’t even make callbacks for either. I talked a positive game afterward but, especially for ComedySportz Seattle I felt really bummed. I learned my improv chops through ComedySportz San Jose and really wanted to be a part of it here in Seattle.
Near the end of my Long Form Essentials class that I was taking through Jet City Improv, our teacher Mandy, sent out an email telling us all about upcoming auditions for The Journal. Also, she sent me a follow up email telling me that she put in a good word about me with the producer. This made me feel good because I think she is an awesome improviser who’s style I’d like to emulate in many ways. So I was riding high knowing I had made an impression with someone who I respect. That is, I was riding high until auditions.
For Jet City Improv and ComedySportz Seattle auditions I felt that I had done pretty good. I had a feeling I wouldn’t make the cut but I still felt I had done well overall. For the first audition to The Journal I had actually studied Nicholas Sparks movies and even watched The Notebook right before the audition. It seemed like a more serious piece so I was doing the serious thing of studying (something I never did much before). After the first audition I went home thinking I was in over my head. I felt some of the other improvisers did much better at long form theatrical improv and I had no chance.
To my surprise, I got called back! That good word from Mandy must’ve paid off, either that or they could tell, and appreciated, that I had recently watched The Notebook. In my mind, “Thank You Mandy!” There was no way I had made the difference there. I was there and I felt I had done a really poor job.
NOTE: Logic doesn’t really pertain here, as I said above, but logic says that when you do an audition you have no idea what the people running the auditions are looking for so do your best and then don’t worry about it
At the callbacks I realized only 1 or 2 others got called back and the rest of the people there knew each other from Seattle Experimental Theater‘s (SET) previous show Where No Man Has Gone Before. I had an inkling of feeling special but then I saw the people work together who knew each other. They were really connected with each other and were funny without even trying. I left that audition feeling worse about my performance than the last time, but hey – at least I made it to callbacks this time.
NOTE: If you’ve never done improv, you may not know that knowing your fellow improvisers helps so, so much.
Funny thing about how I felt about my performance, it didn’t matter. They offered me a part in the show! Thanks again Mandy! I obviously had nothing to do with it.
So off to rehearsals I went and this is when stuff really got weird for me. I didn’t act like my improv self at all. I’ll explain by going back in time to my educations at ComedySportz San Jose. I once asked my improv teacher Michael, what he thought I needed to work on to be a better improviser. For the most part, he said I had good instincts and I was never afraid to jump on stage first and try out an idea. The main thing he said I should work on is letting others take the spotlight and learn how to add to their ideas. Jumping back to rehearsals for The Journal, I was definitely attempting to practice giving others the spotlight but now I was timid and afraid of my ideas.
Things all came to a head one day when I was called in early by myself to work on my breathing while talking. Before I got there I was walking with the producer and explaining to her how I was getting something out of being in The Journal because I usually just jump on to stage and don’t do as much support. Her responses, “I really don’t see that from you”. Also, I did the breathing exercises with the Stage Manager and she realized that I was having the problems when I was second guessing myself. A mini lightbulb went off in my head at that point but I was still timid for the rest of that rehearsal. It was later that evening that I did some brooding (my form of soul searching I think) and came to some powerful realizations.
The first thing I realized was that I put a lot of pressure on myself because I didn’t want to let down Mandy who had stood up for my talents. I felt that if I did poorly, I wouldn’t just let her down but make her lose credibility as well.
It was then that I remembered something she said in class that I never thought I would need to do myself. She said that when she performs she actually gives herself permission to mess up. I took it a step further and decided to take a bigger risk and have since been saying to myself, “I give myself permission to fuck things up!” Funny thing about improv when you trust your fellow improvisers on stage, you can not break a scene no matter how hard you try.
I also realized something I have been hinting at a bit in this article, I was not giving myself enough credit. The rest of the cast were pretty much set before auditions even happened as they all knew each other from before. However, they asked me to join them and be a part of their show. They had other talented people try out but they chose me. Whatever the reason, they felt I would be an asset to the show and yet there I was acting like I didn’t deserve to be there. No more! I bring a certain energy to the table.
Finally, looking back at my previous auditions for Jet City Improv and ComedySportz Seattle I realized that I hadn’t given myself explicit permission to make any mistakes. Perhaps next time I audition for either I will give myself that permission and see if it helps. I may not make it (there are some amazing improvisers in Seattle) but at least I’ll feel that I put it all out there at an audition.
Now on to the show
I’ve only had a few rehearsals since the revelations, but I have felt so much better about each of them. The first day I was still a bit timid but I kept reminding myself that I give myself permission to fuck things up. Not only have I felt that I have performed better, but I have had more fun and been more connected with the rest of the cast. I’m not completely over the illogical self deprecating thoughts that are in my head, but by being conscious of them I can make choices without listening to them.
Only 2 more rehearsals until a dress rehearsal in front of an audience and then it is opening night. We’ve got 4 shows and I can’t wait to see what the audience brings each time. I know we are going to do great with whatever we are given.
I was thinking of holding off writing this until after the show, but I don’t see why I should. I can’t break the show, there are too many talented people working on it. I just hope that some other entertainer will read these words and get some insight for themselves. At the minimum, I will read it some day in the future and be reminded that I have permission to be bold.