There's an illusion we've been living under as improvisers. I am just as 100% guilty as everyone else. And it's only so apparent to me now. So pointedly clear. How ignorant I was my entire 17 years of performing, and after just 3 months of running a theater I realized...
We forgot to train ourselves to value ourselves!
Every element that makes up our careers as Improvisers should be putting us on the highest, most noblest tiers of the theater arts.
- Our lines of dialogue aren't written for us
- We are required, nightly, to go beyond our natural skillsets to embody a world of possibilities
- We subject ourselves to the whims of the audience
- We NEVER get to take a rest in the green room during someone elses' scenes
- We never stop having to learn new trends, politics, cultural changes.
- We don't get required breaks during rehearsal
- We don't get a required dinner hour before a show
- We are very autonomous people, always pushing through our own less traveled roads
And we've collectively put the chance to get to do this on stage above our desire to put a price on our talents.
(it must be said again...)
We've collectively put the chance to get to do this on stage ABOVE our desire to put a price on our talents.
So apparently our list of Improviser traits is still incomplete. Our education isn't finished. Apparently we're so exhausted by all that being an improviser already takes out of us, that when it comes to the part about selling ourselves and creating a market for ourselves, we fall incredibly short.
We forgot to train you to believe that what you do has value...
....In the form of a ticket price.
....In the form of going after the real audience out there (not your friends, not other students)
....In the form of being proud ambassadors rallying the uninitiated patrons to come see this magic!
This is the status quo.
Do you want to keep it this way? Do you want to keep performing for free to nice big houses and not see a cent? Have we just basically turned improv theater into huge glorified bars with crazy fun entertainment? Are we just extended Stand Up? And when you're ready to take in the value of your talents, are you also ready to embrace the next step in your education? Are you ready to finish your training and begin to look at your improv show more objectively?
...As a product?
...Your Posters, as an actual piece of print commerical?
...Your Show Names as needing to have actual audience appeal?
Do you even know how to see your show from a certain demographic?
Are you ready to shake the hands of total strangers and thank them for coming?
Are you ready to finish your training?
Our current system is really set to be the glorified Stand Up scene of the new millennium. And that's falling soooo short of what it is and what it can be. If we leave it just up to the bar owners, whose interest are they gonna serve? And if we just want to perform for our peers, then why don't we just have more house parties and spare all the cost? Or else keep the status quo and have other people take care of all of this for you.
I'm guilty of this.
And now, as I've met so many 100's of people in just the last 3 months come to my theater to see improv for the very first time I realize how ignorantly I've let my training remain incomplete.
And I want so much more for us.
So I dare you to finish your education, put a price on yourself, and then go out there and Get Your Audience!
When you start doing that,
Suddenly you perform to a much bigger world.
Dr. Stephanie McCullough Vlcek, PsyD is a board member for Studio BE, NFP and the Director of Development for MCL Chicago. She is a faculty member at The Second City Training Center in the Music Improv Program. You'll find Steph either behind the piano, or laughing in the back of the house; spreading the joy of music improv.