There are three big improv studios in NYC: The People's Improv Theater, The Upright Citizens Brigade, and Magnet. I'm sure they're all great, but it was suggested to me that I start at the PIT, so that is what I did. Luckily I snagged an internship this summer, which works as a type of work-study. I felt pretty cool hangin' around the improv big shots, while secretly dreading the day when my class would actually start. I put it off for a while, until finally I made the commitment. I was going to start my Level 1 improv class.
With goal in mind (I'm going to be funny), I went confidently (i.e. trying to appear confident while inwardly being terrified) to my first class, which I actually loved! My favorite thing about class is laughing. I laugh really hard, for most of the class. Probably too much while I'm performing. But its good medicine for the soul!
So, I left that night feeling pretty good about myself. Pause. Then the next week came around. Every week before improv I would actually dread going to my next class. I would dread it the whole day, sometimes the day before, while on the subway, walking to the studio, right up until I walked into the class. Then, usually I would love it and once again have an outlook full of hope for my future improv career. I would be the next Tiny Fey. Until the next week of course, when I was brainstorming excuses or accidents that I might happen to fall into, which would render me unable to attend the class. Okay, I did miss a couple classes! But for the rest of them I popped some Pepto and dragged my butt there.
This is all to say that for two months I would ask myself why I was torturing myself in this way, and it was all leading up to our graduation show; Monday November 8th, 9:30pm. This was the moment when I would be a fool in front of, not only my class, but also a room full of audience. Civilians. But I was determined that I WAS indeed going to go. And I was going to be funny.
I did go, and ironically I was chosen by my teacher to perform in both 20 minute halves of the show rather than just one. Go figure, right? First, panic. Then logic. It would give me time to warm-up, get more practice, and hopefully have better luck if one of the suggestions from the audience was awful. (Our suggestions were "hot tub" and "potty", by the way.) And ya know what? I had a great time! I feel like I was finally able to let go and have fun with it. To just be silly and commit fully to what I was doing and what my partner brought to the table...even when we were running in a circle and talking about pooping in our pants when we exert ourselves too hard. There's definitely something about having an audience there too. I LOVE an audience! And I LOVE making people laugh. And I was reminded why I'm doing this. Why I'm going crazy day to day, working my butt off to be an actor. Because somewhere in there, I love it, and I thrive off of performing. So, I made a mental and written note that I want to perform once a week to keep this fire alight. And I figure the more I get out there, the less skittish I'll be too.
Agh. So the dichotomy of my life continues. Its a love/hate relationship.
I'll leave you with a saying that they use at the PIT:
"Follow the fear." -Del Close (Legendary Improv Teacher)I think that's about right. This is how we grow.