I stayed after improv class last night to watch a show. I was feeling weird, but I was thinking about my day in terms of improv, and how to apply it to my work onstage, and I thought that talking about it would be just *the best* suggestion. The cue is always “someone who’s never given an improv suggestion before,” and I never had, and so I yelled out “Beef!” right on cue. As the suggestion-taker questioned me about why beef was on my mind, I delighted in the way he was delighted to hear about my day. It confirmed what I thought, that I was a unique person with unique experiences that were interesting and bore merit.
I loved watching that show. I’ve felt less involved with shows that I was IN. It was magical, about as “Yes, and…” as you can get. I was playing out scenarios in my head of drinking after the show, and continuing the conversation with these performers – who are something of heroes to me, it’s tough to admit – that had begun with my suggestion. Tell them more about my unique experiences that are interesting and bear merit.
But that world came crashing down quickly after the show. My friends told me that other improvisers, members of the community, really shouldn’t give suggestions. The performers – I’d planned on retaking classes I’ve passed just to get one of them as a teacher – were upset, they said, pissed. It’s much better if an audience member outside of the improv family gives the suggestion, gets to be in on the show. Which suddenly seemed obvious, and so right, and I wanted to hide. All I’d thought about was me.
It seems like a rule I should just understand, but I didn’t. And I feel like I’m constantly not understanding. That scares me, and gives me anxiety, and dread at the thought of living a life where I probably never will. I’m prone to bluster, and showing off, and being a know-it-all. I have great envy for those wonderful, quiet, thoughtful people who have such a talent for listening and kindness and just being attentive to others’ needs. But even when I try, I can’t stop myself from interjecting, telling MY story, proving that I am an interesting person and you aren’t wasting your time spending it with me. I HAVE to prove that to you…
And as long as I NEED to do that, I’m not going to figure this thing out. Because the point isn’t for me to feel that magic, to watch in pure delight as they validated what I said. The point isn’t to make that magic for someone else. That’s when you know you’re doing it right, when someone in your audience feels like your show is just for them.