I (Should) Always Feel Like Someone Is Watching Me

Sticks Author: Chris B

With a scripted show, you never really know what may happen – an actor may forget her line or pages of lines (My Fair Lady, 1993), the power may go out and leave you acting into a black abyss (Into the Woods, 2005), or the flat you worked so hard to paint to look like a real house – fail – will fall over and almost take off your left foot (Two By Two, 1992).  But these things truly are oddities when it comes to scripted theater.  Sure there is always the occasional dropped line, a flubbed part of a song, or a missed entrance or cue; so terribly minor.  On a whole, in my 25+ years (really?!) of performing on stage most of the shows go just as we’ve rehearsed them.  This may be why I am now so drawn to the art of improv.  You really don’t know what you will say, what you will do, and whether you’ll be good or not.  It’s like the Actor’s Nightmare, but it’s a joke that you and the audience are in on together.

Ok, I admit it; I love having an audience.  Something happens when the lights dim, you hear the murmur of the crowd (well – small group of people you know won’t be too harsh when you suck) start to die down, and the waiting begins.  The anticipation of the unknown.  In that moment, just before the improv show starts, not a single person in the building is sure how the show will go or what the show will even be about.  You are all in this together.  Your job as the improv performer is to be quick, witty, big, bold, funny even.  The audience’s job is simple – laugh.  I feed on that laughter.  I don’t quite know why, but I feel myself become a different person.  I’m far more focused than I am in rehearsal; time seems to tick slowly by, and I notice things that I don’t think I would notice without an audience there.  I can’t really explain how this works or why.

Part of me feels a little bad – like I’ve been letting my fellow Sticks members down during our rehearsals.  I can remember rehearsals when I struggled to get my butt off the chair and contribute, unless that contribution was pouring more wine into my glass.  In front of an audience, I could hardly stay in my seat.  I’m starting to think that this may be one of my fatal flaws.  When I think no one is looking, or it doesn’t matter so much, I get lazy.  I’ve been acutely aware of this ever since our performance last week.  I do this same thing in many aspects of my life.  As soon as the spotlight is on, I grab the controls and act like I’ve been flying the ship the whole time when actually I’ve been on cruise control  gliding through life happily unaware of my lazy bliss.

Improv is no time to be lazy.  Because you have to completely trust your fellow troupe members, you have to believe that what they give you in rehearsal they will give you in performance.  I am not doing that right now.  I will though.  I’ll pretend there’s an audience, set up a video camera and threaten to put it all on YouTube, open the window shades – put speakers outside and let our neighbors watch and listen (kinky!), or drag a homeless man off the street to come watch and judge me.   Or, maybe I don’t need a gimmick.  Maybe I just need to bring it, all the time, because that’s what my friends and family deserve.  Consider it brought – now, time to get my butt out of this computer chair and pour myself another glass of Malbec.

 

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1 Comment

  1. You’re always good! But definitely money when the crowd is there.

    Reply

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