I had my off-Broadway debut. In fact it was so far off Broadway it was in Philadelphia. As I mentioned in an earlier post How to do Improv, I signed up for 8 week intro to improv course at the Philly Improv Theatre. On Sunday our class put on our graduation show. It was the culmination of what we had been learning over the previous past 8 weeks.
I can’t say enough about what a rewarding experience this was for me. I learned a lot in the class, but it took our show on Sunday for me to learn the most important lesson of all. It was a lesson I had learned years ago, but had never experienced quite like this.
And what is the lesson? Drum roll please, ………………………..
We are far more capable of achieving greatness as group then as an individual. If you can walk 10 miles as individual you walk 100 miles as a group. If you can build a house as individual you can build a sky scraper as a group. Anything you can do, a group can do better. Specifically, a group of like mind and supportive individuals who realize they only succeed if the group succeeds.
We are all energy, the same energy. It connects us. It is what makes us feel the pain, the joy, the curiosity, the disappointment of others. I’m pretty sure it was scientifically proven that when we watch someone get kicked in the balls, the area of our brain lights up as if we were getting kicked in the balls.
These can be literally balls or figurative balls, totally readers’ choice here folks.
My classmates, gave me a front row seat to the Super Bowl of support. There were no egos, no agenda, no judgment, allowing for random acts of vulnerability nightly. We were some vulnerable sons’ of bitches.
It was quite beautiful to be a part of if I do say so myself.
If I was in a scene and struggling, the other person would pick up on that and without hesitation pull me through. If you were going down they were either going to go down with you or help you up. There was never the thought, “well this person is fucking it up so I’m just gonna make sure I look good.”
Right before the show my OCD and insecurities reared their ugly heads. The voices were saying, “Todd you better not make a fool out of yourself, your friends and family are here, there are people watching. You better not let your classmates down. You don’t want to be the one person who fucks the show up. You know what Todd? You probably are going to be the one person in the whole class that does not get a laugh and people will feel sorry for. It will be embarrassing.”
With the group I was surrounded by those voices never stood a chance. I immediately felt supported the minute I arrived to the theatre.
We gave each other high fives and pep talks.
We had each other’s back.
When we were 2 minutes away from taking the stage I wont lie, I was still nervous.
I knew I was jumping out of plane, but I suddenly felt a lot better about the parachute strapped to my back. In case it is not clear for some of you, the plane is the stage and my classmates are the parachute in this metaphor. I realize some of you may still be wondering if earlier I meant balls like testicles or balls like you throw.
Just making sure everyone is still with me.
Being on stage performing is scary. With improve there is no script, no lines written down to be memorized. It is totally organic and what unfolds is completely determined in the moment. There is no past and there is no future only the present moment, which is how life should be.
You can plan, prepare, rehearse but ultimately control is an illusion. Life is not a scripted play. You don’t know exactly how the scenes in your life are going to play out. Life is improv. Life is you reacting to what life puts in front of you. Despite planning, worrying, preparing, rehearsing it is how you react in the moment that determines how your life unfolds.
There are no do overs. Once you say or do something it is out there. For better or for worse the future is has been altered.
The scenes in life, like the scenes in improv usually turn out better when you are accepting and working with the support of those around you.
Some prefer to go through life alone. Sure we have friends and family, but we prefer the one man show. Unless you are Colin Quinn or Mike Tyson, the one man show thing generally does not pan out.
The Oscar for the best actor or actress in a lead role is more coveted than the Oscar for supporting roles.
If we are gonna do this life thing we are going to do it our way. We don’t need help from anyone else.
The problem with this logic is we can’t win the Oscar for best lead without a supporting cast.
I was perfectly content each night of my class to do go it alone. I did not want help or need help. My focus was on me and how I was doing. I know I’m a selfish prick but let me finish.
I was afraid to be vulnerable. I was afraid to look like an idiot in front of these people. It was an act of self preservation more than anything else. It is not that I thought I didn’t need help, because lord knows I did.
Asking for help is scary not only because you expose the fact you can’t do something alone, but for me if I fail even after getting help, I must be a pretty big fuck up.
I was lucky. I was surrounded by some of the most supportive, caring, positive, energetic group of people I’d ever had the pleasure of being of with. Some of them might be surprised to read this, if for some reason they were to stumble upon it. I was mostly quit, except when on stage. I rarely engaged in conversation outside of class, but I wish I had. They were truly an exceptional group of people that did more for me than they know.
Our show on Sunday was incredible. I was so proud of our class. Everyone did amazing. Everyone supported each other.
Thank you improve troupe, Via Tarra. That was the name we gave to ourselves before the show. It was a way for us to acknowledge and show appreciation for our fearless leader and chief inspiration office Tara D.
Even as I write this I’m thinking to myself what a shitty job I’m doing. I feel like I’m not communicating properly the effect these group of people had on me and how much I admired each and every one of them. Had I just allowed myself to be vulnerable one last time, though I fear my vulnerability tank was low after the show, I would of told them this to their face instead of in a blog post.
As I write this I feel like I’m doing a pretty shitty job of expressing myself. This is one post I’d really rather not post. It probably is one of the worst written ones I’ve done so far. I think it was James Altucher who said, the more scared you are to press submit, the more it needs to be submitted, or something like that.
So if anyone of you end up reading this, Tara, Kristen, Stan, Corin(SP?), Joe, Brian, Aleisha,(SP?), Beth, Ailene(SP?), Yuval, Jen, and Shan,. Thanks. Thanks for supporting me and each other. We tore the fucking roof of that bitch on Sunday!!!