The Disease of Agreement

Thanks for coming, proud of the business, this is what I liked, these are needed improvements, something inspirational for the team. Repeat. Thanks for coming, proud of the business, this is what I liked, these are needed improvements, something inspirational for the team. Repeat. Thanks for coming, proud of the business, this is what…

I have caught on to my own blog formula and much like improv I need to take some more risks. I always tell our Yeti performers in scenes they need to ‘hit it harder’. Let’s see if I can achieve the same here and find some deeper truths and a renewed vision.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. This is the Yeti side of my brain during an average performance month: Last shows were great, gotta make sure to keep on top of advertising, is it too soon to think about scheduling the next performance season, what opportunities are out there, time to schedule rehearsals, I hate scheduling, I hate scheduling, I hate scheduling, why do the stars align against me, rehearsal went well, rehearsal went rough, got some weird looks from performers, that set was awesome, have we hit an artistic wall in our improv, I hate it when everyone isn’t here, sometimes I can’t be here, are we improving as an ensemble, have I reached the limit of by knowledge, am I deserving of a director spot, trying a Harold without a formal training program, eesh, formal training programs are overrated, I need help, I don’t need help, I got this, I hope Josh is happy, he needs to be happy, do audiences get what we’re trying to do, let’s apply for festivals, is our submission material competitive enough, what will they think of us outside of Alaska, should I be nervous, I’m nervous, I’m not nervous, it’s improv right, how do people talk about Yeti when I’m not around, FACEBOOK REVIEW, is that my co-worker in the audience, do we take our short form for granted, man I wish I could play more, I like not playing as much and focusing on the business and directing. Repeat.

The combination of being a human and John Hanus is both exhilarating and exhausting.

Josh gave me a book this past year called ‘The Director’s Voice’, which is a compilation of successful stage director interviews across the country. No improv directors, but the parallels are amazing. In an interview with Anne Bogart, she describes the idea that direction is not about knowing, it’s about having questions. She describes the best actors to work with are the ones that challenge direction through conversation and offer alternatives:

“We do suffer in this country from the disease of agreement. If you think that a rehearsal is doing what the director wants, then there’s something sick in the room.”

This actually provided a bit of an epiphany for myself. There is no director and ensemble, there is only the ensemble. The Harold has been a challenging set because we can’t just focus on the basis of good improv and long form scenes, we have to focus on making all content audience worthy and converging the ideas and themes into a coherent end point. To give us more focus on scene convergence, we applied a little structure to scene transition with the bell and the approach to group games. I have found myself hitting the concepts of strong choices, strong energy too much over two months of rehearsal. After poor sets, all I can get out is “Stronger, bolder choices will yield more memorable moments you’ll want to revisit in the second and third beats of the Harold.” Saying it is easy, applying is difficult and I feel the exercises for this sort of set are hard to come by for me. I’m sure they are out there, I just need to reach in the right places.

Then came a bit of relief during our last rehearsal. After our third Harold set, Aneliese started discussing the third beat and how we should approach it. No more weird looks and confused faces, the discussion began amongst the group about what went well and what didn’t. Everybody got in the game, and alternative views were refreshing. I want this to continue. I want more full group discussion and ideas being brought to the table. Conversation implies better focus and passion for getting to a true group think. In our conversation, we started talking about structure vs. free form and the benefits of each. Of course I started by re-emphasizing performers should slide in to the scene from transition with a strong choice and the others should follow (broken record, Hanus), but then we started bridging that with what Aneliese, Mallory, Mary Jo were seeing and thinking about as they go through the set. God dammit Hanus, reading and watching improv has hidden the fact that answers are not meant to be seen and relayed, they are meant to be discovered by the ensemble.

This is a good place to be as we wrap up our spring season and the timing couldn’t be better. This month we head to Juneau for the Alaska State Improv Festival, which will consist of workshops with outside directors who will engage us with alternative view points. We’ll then come home to our final spring show and additional workshops with Second City instructors visiting for other shows. Finally, we will hopefully hear some positive news on summer festival opportunities. Yeti is setting itself up nicely to Skywalker the shit out of our summer, getting away from the rebel alliance for some swamp time with Yoda. We’ve spent over a year establishing our brand and now we go into these diverse experiences stronger and more adaptable.

I got to slow down the brain ticker and encourage a focus on true ensemble work, rather than too much emphasis on a director/performer relationship. I’ll take all of these ticker thoughts, mash them up into a small little ball inside my brain, and exhale. No big audience reaction? Set didn’t go as well as you wanted? Butts in the seats low? Submission rejected? Performers didn’t get as much out of that rehearsal? Everyone not showing up? So what Hanus, how cool is it that we’re even in the game? How awesome is it to even get a chance to bring the best out in people and be part of a community exploring improv?

My renewed vision? The ticker is the distraction. You can’t have it perfect all the time. Wipe off the sweat, quit your whining and get back on stage.