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Peter Rogers's Blog
Artist-in-Residence at Chez Firth

Thursday (3/29/18) 2:43pm - ... wherein Peter thinks about his artistic goals for 2018.




Introduction


Yesterday I talked about how I want to do art projects in 2018.  It was just basic logistics -- how I can approach projects so that I have the best chance at success?

But the 'how' of things is kind of useless if I don't know the 'what'.  If I don't have overall *goals* for art in 2018, then I'm playing 'bring me a rock' with myself, passively assessing one prospect after another with no real inspiration.

But if I know what I want my art to *accomplish* in 2018, I can figure out what the projects should *be*.

I know my objectives are generally centered on the improv scene.  But that said, right now I don't much care about making great shows myself.  Instead, I want to promote and support an environment where lots of great shows can happen.

In this post, I want to describe my ideal version of a local improv scene.  Then I'll describe where I think our improv scene is now.  And then I'll list the obstacles that keep us from reaching that ideal.

The Bazaar


So what does the AIC look like, in the best of all possible worlds?

Let's pretend we're there.

Let's say it's Thursday night.  And I'm going to go out to see a triple bill at one of the improv theaters.  I go, pay the ticket price, have a seat.  And then I see three acts that each are out-innovating the mainstages.  The points of view are so clear, and the execution so purposeful, that I'm watching three things that remind me that improv is a medium, not a genre.

Let's say the first is a genre show.  And let's say it's not the typical "ha ha, I recognize those tropes" genre work, but it's got such a specific take on its genre that it's more like "I will watch other things in the future, and they will remind me of *this show I'm watching now*".  Let's say the second is more abstract, format-wise, but it it has a fierce, take-no-prisoners, death-to-the-patriarchy point of view.  And let's say that the third one is a mixed drama/interpretive dance piece, and it includes some performers who are upper-level modern dance students over at Ballet Austin, along with some local amateur non-improvisor jazz musicians.

Each group has their own dedicated tech and, while they haven't been able to make changes to the light grid, the booth personnel ensure that each segment looks and sounds only like itself.

And the shows each declare, implicitly but emphatically, that they *have* to be improvised -- that even the polished version of this material you might see on netflix would not be as good, because it would miss out on something crucial.  Maybe the audience interplay is vital.  Maybe it engages with current events on a timeframe that even weekly TV couldn't manage.  Maybe you need the tension of knowing that *nobody* in the room, including the cast and crew, knows how the story ends.  It's not just "the scripted version done shoddily".

And there would be a strong sense that each team[1] put in a ton of work up-front to create something unique.  They thought long and hard about what they wanted from this format and this group.  They watched their rehearsals and got a sense of where the material "wanted" to go.  They asked themselves how they wanted the audience to feel, and why this had to be improvised, and why we needed this show, here and now.  And they knew the show so well going into the performance that they managed to create something unique without apparent effort.

In this universe, the mainstages are the shows you *settle* for -- the big-tent shows that have better resources, but that need to reach a broader audience and make safer choices.  They're fun for easy-to-watch, professionally-made spectacle, but they're surrounded by a thousand other nimbler, more ambitious improv efforts that fight for your valuable time and attention.

Anyway.  The show's finished up, and I turn my phone back on.  I have a message -- there's a sketch show going up.  Let's say it's a mixed improv/scripted/video piece, where they perform a few sketches about that month's Texas news, and then do improv based on that day's headlines.  They'd had somebody from the Austin Screenwriters Group writing for them, but she'd moved away, and they wanted to get somebody local for their little writers' room.  They'd heard I'd gotten back into sketch, and could I link them to anything I'd written lately?

I'm keen on helping out, so I send along some links, and see if I can go to the acting class I've been taking on a different night to avoid a scheduling conflict.

I get back home, heat up some curry, and fire up Google Docs.  Last week, I attended a LARP, part of an event with a regional conference for professional LARPers -- i.e., people who use the form for corporate training, etc. -- and I'm helping out the folks there with some observations from an improv perspective.  I'm writing out some notes, making them as respectful as possible, since I'm 90% sure I can't tell these people anything about spontaneous storytelling that they don't already know.  But sometimes having the outside specialist's point of view is helpful, even if it's just to give you a phrase for a concept that you didn't know you already knew.

I send the outline to my point of contact, and tell them that this is what I'll be focusing on when I discuss that LARP with the organizers next week.

And with that, I carry the cat off to the living room and snuggle with Lindsey on the couch.  Day done.

--

So -- I had the word "Bazaar", bolded and heading-like, floating ominously over this section.  I only wrote that word because I couldn't think of a better one.  The notion of a giant, noisy market, with colorful stalls next to each other, selling everything under the sun, and every type of person in the city running from one place to another conducting business, felt metaphorically like what I'm going for.

This ideal improv world is a world that's porous.  It's a world where improvisors can move easily from improv to other art forms and back again.  There are lots of impovisors scripting podcasts, or doing "straight acting", or designing LARPs.  And it's porous the other way, too -- it's normal, even average, for a non-improvisor to join an improv show that needs their help or input. 

There's variety.  Every 'stall' (show) is its own thing, sharply different from the ones around it.  There are different takes on improv, to the point that we get into arguments about whether some show out on the fringes even *is* 'improv'.  We fill out that whole 'devising' gradient between 'purely scripted' and 'purely improvised'.  We find more ways to blend improv with multimedia presentation, or with live music and dance.

And there's variety in the kind of people in the scene.  Yes, this absolutely includes diversity, and people bringing different voices into the community and performing art that lets them perform in their own voice.  But it also a diversity of roles: the scene has plenty of 'directors' -- people with a background in building shows, who are coming up with tons of show and troupe concepts.  It means that we have dedicated techs for troupes -- that we have so many people purely interested in tech that the overall scene has a techie/stage performer ratio that roughly matches what you need for a show.

And the part I have the most trouble putting into words is the energy.  I want the feeling that we don't have improv 'down' yet.  That we don't know anything about the limits of what it can or should do, or how it should make an audience feel, or how it can and can't meld with other art forms.  We obliterate the world-weary sigh of "Well, improv isn't good at that," and likewise kill the smugness of saying that improv has this or that type of show perfected.  I want to feel like there are enough bold attempts going on that every show I see might be something genuinely surprising.

It's a world where I'm contributing, sure, but really I'm just straining to keep up.

The Lonely Spire


Improv, in Austin, is a lonely spire: it has reached great heights, but it remains disconnected from everything around it.

Almost every person in the AIC is a stage improvisor.  And of those stage improvisors, the vast majority are *only* stage improvisors.  They don't do scripted acting.  They don't write.  They aren't in bands or dance companies.  They don't do stand-up.  They just improvise on stage, and they do it very well.

And the barrier goes the other way: not only do few people ever venture *out* of stage-improv, but few people ever venture *in*.  Even communities that are eerily similar to improv, like RPGs (improv, but you're sitting down), or scripted acting (improv, with severe verbal restrictions), or playwriting (improv + editing) stay unaware of the whole improv scene.  It's like identical people passing each other unseen on an Escher staircase.

It's so isolated that there are active barriers to exploring other art forms.  Every couple months or so, some improv friend asks, "Do any of you know of good acting classes in Austin?" and it kind of blows my mind.  Acting is literally what stage improvisors do every time we get on stage.  The two art forms are about as different as -- if we were to put it in terms of languages, it'd be like the linguistic difference between "Portuguese" and "Portuguese While Slightly Drunk".  And hardly any of us are even aware of the actual acting scene in Austin: a nearby spire, tantalizingly close, but impossible to get to.

On some level, this is LA envy.  Every time I go out there, I marvel at how their performers regularly flit from improv, to stand-up, to screenwriting, to sketch, and back again, without any feeling that it's even peculiar.  Here, we are firmly siloed.

--

The AIC has a lot of things going on that are *almost* connections to other scenes.

For instance, yes there are improvisors who are into other nearby art forms.  But those people tend to coalesce into subgroups inside the AIC.  Put another way, you don't get a connection to the <x> art scene; instead, there's a tiny subgroup of "improvisors who also do <x>".  We have screenwriters, but those usually form knots of "improvisors who also write screenplays".  We have RPG enthusiasts, but that coalesces into the "improvisors who also game" group.  If it's a Venn Diagram, we get additional circles *inside* the AIC, rather than having the AIC circle intersect with other nearby ones.

On an analogous tack, if we try to do other art forms -- if we form bands, or write plays, or shoot video -- we do that, again, within the AIC.  We don't bring in experts from other communities to teach us what exists outside our bubble.  It's groups of stage improvisors puzzling it out among ourselves, often tripping over our own inexperience.

But sometimes we do bring from other scenes to help us with improv shows.  We had one Ballet Austin instructor, for example, perform in a couple of Dance Dreams shows.  (That was great!)  And occasionally a scripted-acting teacher does a workshop at one of the big improv houses in town.  But these isolated crossovers are rare.  They take considerable effort to set up, because the *connections* to the other artistic scenes just aren't in place.

--

What's weirder: we are a lonely spire *within the art of improv*.  It's not just that there is no interchange between improv and adjacent art forms, it's that there is no interchange between stage improvising -- that is, acting on stage without a script -- and the other gigs on an improv show.

There are lots of people that want to be onstage, but shockingly few people who want to tech the shows.  To date, Lindsey is the only person trained in theater tech who joined the AIC to do theater tech, and now does theater tech.  There isn't even a bridge from the AIC to people in our city studying theater tech who want practice teching shows.  (When I brought this up to management at one of the theaters years ago, the response I got was, "If techs came in, then what would the interns do?")

But the more surprising thing is how few people want to direct -- which in improv-land, means how few people want to come up with show ideas.  (A 'director' in improv-speak is more akin to a 'showrunner'.)  And literally *nobody* directs exclusively -- it's always a brief sojourn away from (everybody now) "improvising on stage".

There isn't really a "scene" for directors.  The AIC has few classes in directing, fewer classes in directing improv, and those few that we do have often don't make.  There are no regular meetups, no facebook groups for exchanging ideas.  The smattering of directors are each of them on their own, nabbing ideas when they can from the shows they act in, but painfully reinventing the art of improv direction every other step of the way -- because nine times out of ten, all they know is stage improv.[2]

--

Problems with the Lonely Spire


So what is the result of this intense isolation?

Only Stage Improvisors


The "everyone is only a stage improvisor" thing undoubtedly hurts our shows.  It's like, if this were "the Austin novel community", and we had trained an endless horde of copy editors.  And now the copy-editors were getting fractious that there weren't enough novels for them to edit, and there are only four publishing houses for them to edit for.  And really, very few proper novels came out of it -- mostly just lots of adroit demonstrations of copy-editing.

The lack of techs means that most improv shows are boring to look at and boring to listen to.  The lights go up, the lights go down, no sound effects, no scoring, no costumes, no sets.  Mood and tone are muted, because that's what happens when you don't have tech.

The lack of directors means that most improv shows lack purpose.  If everyone is a stage improvisor, the directive behind most improv shows is going to be "this show exists so that I get to improvise on stage".  The director is there to say: this is how this show is unique.  This is how this show should make the audience feel.  This is why we are doing this show, here, now, and not some other one.  In improvised narrative, a director has to somehow do what a playwright does -- to create a unique, theatrical story that moves an audience -- without writing one single line of dialog or action.

*Without* directors, you're stuck with troupes that are basically, "Hey, we haven't worked together; let's think of a pun name!"  And then they do work that's mostly for the benefit of aficionados in the audience -- other stage improvisors.

And there are, to my knowledge, *no* people in the AIC who devote themselves to just the behind-the-scenes work: how to market shows, how to manage rehearsals, how to make all the show logistics run smoothly.  Nor is there any local community for accumulating a body of knowledge about logistics, or for teaching each other how to do these things.  This puts a very low ceiling on how complicated most shows can be.  If any non-mainstage show starts to require logistical complexity, very few people have the savvy to pull it off.

But this even blunts mainstages, the most ambitious and well-attended shows we have going.  If everybody is a stage improvisor, it means everybody in every other position is inexperienced.  The director has probably been doing nothing but acting on stage for the last month, or two, or three, so they're likely to be rusty or inexperienced at *directing*.  Same for the stage manager.  Same for everyone else on staff, save the theater employees who work every mainstage.

The crew is an exception -- Cindy and Lindsey have built up a community of techs to the point that mainstages have experienced techs.  (Usually.  More on that in a moment.)  But if everybody *else* is a stage improvisor, it's very likely they're all rusty or inexperienced at interacting with techs.  They might have no idea how to ask for what they want, or what timetables are reasonable for different asks, or how to make the best use of a tech's time.  And that, in turn, means that a lot of directors can really bungle working with the crew, which can sour those relationships and, eventually, make it hard for that director to get an experienced crew for their show.

Knowledge Exchange


We also miss opportunities to exchange knowledge.

Let's consider tech.  Lindsey is a genius, and she does a great job of bringing what she knows about tech to the improv world.  But she's just one woman -- the *only* person in the AIC with a tech degree who's actually doing tech.  She can only do so much.  And she herself would heartily agree that there are countless brilliant people in the tech community who know a million things that even *she* doesn't know, and could bring that to the table in an improv show.  Simply put, by not inviting the theater-tech community to the table, we miss out on what that community knows.

And so it is with acting, too.  There is a mountain of knowledge about stage acting that the AIC ignores, and we are stuck with stage performers who face upstage for no reason, who can't project properly, who can't find their light, who don't cheat out, and so on and so on.[3]  Hell, *I* have no real theatrical training, and I'm guilty of all of these things at one time or another.

And so it is with music, too.  There is a mountain of knowledge about vocal performance that the AIC ignores, and we are stuck with singers who can't project, or harmonize, or (in some cases) even stay on-key and on the beat.  (And when was the last time a songwriter came to the AIC to discuss how people in the 'scripted world' write pop songs?)

Out there in the world, every performance medium has a community that's feverishly devoted to it, but their knowledge never reaches The Spire.

Not only is outside knowledge not readily accessible, but often our community actively combats outside knowledge.  Many old-timers can trace shows getting more theatrical, more impressive, more ambitious -- more like "real theater" -- with the passing decades.  Only some of those performers have seen the agonizing amount of pushback we've had against every step of the way.  Even something as simple as "This is how you wire a microphone so it doesn't incessantly buzz" can be like pulling teeth because, again, improv is a lonely spire, and we don't take kindly to that highfalutin knowledge from the Outside.

So it is with building a lighting grid that follows the normal conventions of stage lighting.  So it is with introducing basic business logistics for running a mainstage.  So it is with introducing codes of conduct to keep performers and audiences safe during the show process.  The AIC has spent the last twenty years painfully re-inventing the wheel of theater, stumbling towards readily-available answers to solved problems, things that the outside world had known for decades (or centuries).

It never had to be that slow.  And it doesn't have to be that slow in the future.

And like most concepts in this post, the problem goes the other way too.  Improv has a lot to offer the rest of the artistic world.  Every scripted actor should be an improvisor who happens to have lines.  Every writer should be an improvisor who happens to edit.  Everybody can learn something useful from improv.  But without those connections to other disciplines, that never happens.  I've improvised for twenty-odd years; so far I've met two playwrights who have come into the improv scene, I think?  That seems silly.

And so if we look beyond the Spire, to other disciplines, we can see *them* reinventing the wheel of *improv*!  Devised playwrights run improv rehearsals where scenes literally can't do basic "yes and" agreement.  Film-comedy directors talk about their "improvisational" sets, and how they riff for three hours to get two minutes of usable material, and every improvisor who hears that ratio cringes, thinking, "Good Christ, what are you doing wrong?"  (And if they've been on those film sets, they inwardly conclude: "Oh, right: EVERYTHING.")

They'll get there -- someday they'll figure out how improv works -- but, again, it doesn't have to be that slow.

Scene Fragility


The "spiriness" also makes our community fragile.

Communities are not as stable as we think.  They're often like farm chickens: they have lots and lots of very good days, until their last day, which is suddenly very, very bad.

I assume the sexual-misconduct scandal at The New Movement was a wake-up call for a lot of us -- that a stalwart improv theater that's been around for a decade might just... vanish, leaving its performers to scatter.  So: what happens if the Institution Theater gets kicked out of its clubhouse?  What if a meteor hits the Hideout?  What if some existential threat hits the improv community?

When TNM Austin foundered, its performers could take refuge in the other theaters (thank god) until they reclaimed their old space (thank god).  But if Austin improv *itself* founders, there isn't any "adjacent" artistic community where we can collectively hang out, and bide our time while we build the improv scene back up.  We aren't going to spend the interim doing sketch or stand-up or vlogs or podcasts -- the connections just aren't there.  Most of us are only stage improvisors.  If improv temporarily disappears, most of us just... stop doing art.  And if the we want to get the scene going again, we'll have an impossible amount of inertia to overcome.

So: a spire community is especially vulnerable to existential threats.

And I think the same problem exists on the individual level.  The lack of any "neighboring community" means that, if it becomes impossible for you to do stage improv, you basically have to jettison your whole social life and any artistic momentum you might have going.

This comes up when people get burned out on stage improv.  When that happens, they face a choice.  They can keep getting on stage, unfeelingly and grumpily, and trust that the feeling will pass in time.  Or they can quit.  And that means quitting art completely, and quitting any regular connection with anybody associated with the scene.

Without a nearby "side room" to take a break from stage improv in, you get weird incentives to keep doing the work without really feeling the work.

Things Left Alone Get Pointlessly Weird


It can also lead to... well, pointless and arbitrary weirdness.

Consider Tsez.  Tsez is a language spoken in the Caucasus Mountains.  It has maybe a few hundred speakers in an isolated community.  Nobody (except the odd masochistic linguist) goes there and learns Tsez.  Tsez is left to its own devices.

And as such, Tsez gets really, *really* bizarre.  It has sixty-four different noun cases.  It has not one, but two, distinct sounds that you make by using your uvula in different ways.  Lots of linguists, if pressed to name the hardest language on Earth, will name Tsez, and no other linguist will fight them over it.

Languages left in isolation will make weird, hivemind-y, self-reinforcing choices -- choices that serve no purpose at all.  These choices definitely don't make Tsez speakers more connected to the non-Tsez world.  It's all just pointless and arbitrary weirdness that makes Tsez speakers only expressive to themselves.

As it is with languages, so it is with artistic communities.  The more cut off an artistic community is, the more likely it is to disappear into pointless, arbitrary weirdness.  And if everybody is a stage improvisor, building projects that serve the goal "is this a fun show to be a stage improvisor in?", the scene will go in directions that don't serve the art form or its audience.

(One counterargument I've heard is "fuck audiences, I do this for me".  In which case, why subject audiences to this at all?  Surely you could be LARPing?)

And circling back to language, this "isolation leads to weirdness" has also led to really weird terminology within the improv scene.  Specifically, lots of accepted theater terms get arbitrarily redefined.  In theater, a beat is the smallest unit of action in a scene[4]; in improv, a beat is a large-scale structural element in a narrative format.  In theater, the Tech Director runs the costume shop and oversees set builds; in improv, the Tech Director runs the electric grid and does lighting/sound design.  Other theater terms get arbitrarily synonym-ed: "narrative structure" becomes "story spine", and so on.

A friend of a friend refers to useless in-group jargon as "bullshit Scientology words", a phrase which makes me laugh and laugh.[5]  It's another little way the improv community cuts itself off from everybody else.

Pushback and Impediments


I want to do projects that move us from the Lonely Spire (stage improvisors, interacting only with other stage improvisors, doing projects that serve stage improvisors) to the Bazaar (stage improvisors and other folks, interacting with everybody, collaborating to do more purposeful work that focuses on the audience).  But I think there are a lot of impediments that will make that difficult.  After all, it's not just *coincidence* that our improv scene is a spire -- there are systemic factors that have made it so.  Any effort to move at least some part of the AIC towards the bazaar will be an uphill battle.

And let me be clear: I am not listing these factors out as "these things need to change".  I don't want to tell the scene what to do, nor do I want to hold my breath and wait for the AIC to collectively change its behavior.  I want to do my projects that should create the artistic environment that I want, in some small corner of the AIC.  I'm listing these factors out because these are the things that are in my *way*.  This is what I'm going to have to work around, to do what I want to do.

--

The number one obstacle: people are content with the way things are.

This makes sense.  People come to our scene to do stage improv.  At the end of the shows, we say "if being on stage looks like fun, it is!"  We don't say "if improv tech looks like fun, it is."[6]  And the bottom line is, they come to our community because they love what we're doing already.  If I think a show lacks purpose, they'll think it only needs to be a fun opportunity to improvise onstage.  If I say a show isn't theatrical, they'll say it rightly makes it all about the actors.  If I see an unprofessional, phoned-in lack of polish, they see a scrappy, DIY aesthetic that acknowledges its limitations with a knowing wink.

And that contentment brings inertia, and resistance to *any* change, even clear improvement.

The thing that sticks in my head the most is a line from Don't Think Twice -- which is weird because I have yet to watch that movie.  But towards the end, after lots of plot about one troupe member moving on to the film's SNL à clef , one of the remaining members says that she's "happy on her lily pad" in their improv scene.  And when I heard that quoted, I realized two things: (1) it feels deeply, unsettlingly wrong to me, and (2) it characterizes the outlook, I think, of most improvisors.  To do an art form, and to not push the limits of the art form, to never explore using it to do new things, to never push yourself to find new techniques or new ways to get your voice across -- to just lazily float in circles forever -- feels like doing art wrong.  And to do that in improv -- in a form where there is still so, so much that we don't know yet, and so many things that we can't yet do -- feels tragic.

If we're doing the same kind of work ten years from now that we're doing today, what's even the point?

But it means you get pushback everywhere.  If you bring in people from the theater-tech community, it's a threat to the exclusively actor-centric model that they know and love.  If you ask "why this play now" about an improv production, that puts people in their head, or stresses them out because now there are criteria by which their show could be judged a failure.  And if you suggest improvisors should try their hands at (say) scripted acting, they'll balk, because that's just something they have no interest in.

Basically, the only way around this is to play the numbers.  The number of AIC folks is surely in the hundreds now, and it's a matter of finding the small percentage of folks who feel this same anomie about the way things are.

--

One also has to consider the business model of an average improv theater.  For the average improv theater, shows lose money.  They don't lose money catastrophically, but still: they lose money.  The shows are more of a loss leader -- or more precisely, an advertisement for the theater's classes.[7]  The business of improv -- the key to staying afloat -- is turning out lots of improv students and lots of corporate workshops.

And that's great!  That teaches lots of 'muggles' about improv, and that betters their lives and it ensures that Austin can hold on to its improbable number of theaters in the middle of a massive venue crisis.  But it pumps the community full of nothing but stage improvisors, hundreds and hundreds of them, directly creating this bizarre ecosystem, this "army of copy-editors" that we have here now.

--

It also means that Austin may have a much stronger stage-improv scene than any 'adjacent' artistic scene in the city.

A quick sidebar: what does it mean to have  'a scene' for any particular kind of art?  I feel like I can make a checklist: If we're judging it like that, does Austin even *have* (say) a sketch comedy scene?  I need to do more research, but offhand, it feels like we have a smattering of ColdTowne groups, a smattering of Fallout Comedy (née New Movement) groups, and... one Institution Theater group?  And they don't really interact or build off of each other's work.  There's an annual SketchFest, which is great, but mostly focuses on bringing in out-of-town acts.  And OoB has sketch acts, but not many, in a sea of stand-up and improv.  There's the excellent "BackPack Presents", but they seem more of a piece with the scripted-theater scene than the improv one -- same with the Latino Comedy Project.

For podcasting, I suspect the 'scene' is even wispier.  It's only in the last few years that (say) "podcast conventions" started happening.

I'm not saying this to malign Austin's sketch troupes (or the podcasters) or make light of their hard work.  There are stupidly talented sketch troupes here, and many of the best sketches I've ever seen have been local acts.  But it's enough to make me wonder if the AIC isn't just a "lonely spire".  Maybe it's the *only* spire.  And maybe this world of making connections to other scenes is, in many cases, more like trying to build an 'adjacent scene' from the ground up.

And honestly, that might be a great thing for the stage-improv scene to do, if we can manage it: nurture and develop other artistic communities.  It may be that the best thing the AIC does is serve as an engine for spinning off other local artistic communities that eventually rival it in scale and stature.

--

One possibility: are improvisors just lazy?

I know, that's at best reductive and at worst slander.  If you're reading this, you work hard at doing good improv.  But frankly, to other scenes, inasmuch as they're aware of improv, that's our reputation: improvisors are lazy.

And it makes sense, in some ways.

I've acted in some of the most demanding improv shows we've done, and none of those required as much time, effort, and focus as the one time I played one bit part in Austin Shakespeare.  Plus, most of us in the AIC have day jobs.  I figure there may be four people in Austin who do improv as their full-time gig -- and those people more accurately having a 'day job' of running an improv business.

So a lot of the 'non-porosity' may be because doing anything besides improv just takes too much effort.  And a lot of folks may not be visiting improv-land because our scene feels like a bunch of quasi-artists phoning it in.

--

The last possibility is that improv -- and stage improv in particular -- is sui generis, too unique, too idiosyncratic, too set apart from all other art forms that to do improv has nothing to do with doing any other discipline.

I don't buy this.  But I'm often wrong, so it's worth keeping an eye on this.

--

So that's basically it: I want to do what I can to lever us from a community of only-stage-improvisors, only doing stage-improv things for other stage improvisors, to a community with every type of person involved in doing theater, and lots of interchange between the AIC and similar artistic disciplines.  All that stands in the way of that effort is the innate preferences of every person involved, the business realities of the scene, a possibly-anemic arts community, and everybody thinking we're lazy. 

Right-o.

Tomorrow I'll post part 3, where I speculate about the sorts of projects I could throw into the Evaluate/Develop/Produce funnel to make this change happen.


____
[1] I'm using "team" to mean "cast, crew, and staff" -- i.e., *everybody* involved with putting a production together.
[2] Note that the Hideout has an explicit rule that *only* stage improvisors can direct.
[3] Yes, sometimes trained actors fail to find their light, but having watched lots of improv and watched lots of scripted theater, I can tell you improvisors do this more, by orders of magnitude.
[4] Or it can be a short pause that you write into a play's script, if you hate actors and don't trust them to do their jobs.
[5] What's even weirder is that the effect seems to be recursive.  The erstwhile New Movement was notorious for having special improv terms for widespread concepts in the improv world -- which are themselves often arbitrary redefinitions of general theater terms.  (Spires within spires?)
[6] I tried that, with Fiasco.  It totally, 100%, did not work.
[7] And before you get too smug about "scripted-theater theaters", those theaters almost always lose money on ticket sales, only staying afloat via grants and donations.

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