Even I get thrown for a loop from time to time
I've been performing improv for a long time. Sometimes it was a rough journey and others it was magical.
I've been told to tone it down because I'm overshadowing the men on stage (yes, I'm not kidding) by male directors and teachers. I've then been told, "fuck that noise" from female directors and teachers and just be me.
I opted to just be me. I've had to deal with steamrolling, over and hyper-sexualization of my characters or watching others do that to their characters, taking away my agency under the guise of "yes, and", and even once had an audience member tell one of my castmates to rape me (again, not kidding).
This shapes who you are and it definitely fueled me to create an inclusive, safe, and bullshit-free zone at AdLib. I've worked really hard from the shows we create to the curriculum we teach. This is not the bro-zone and if that's what you want to experience, you've come to the wrong theater. I'm proud of that fact. I won't bend when it comes to these fundamentals that make us who we are.
Please understand we don't play squeaky clean nor do we shy away from the real shit that is life. There's a way to do that and ensure everyone is safe from sexist, misogynistic, patriarchal garbage.
I push boundaries. I play raw, gritty, raunchy, and whatever other labels you want to slap on me. I play it because I know how to walk that line, I have the right to do so, and I am choosing to do so.
A lot of times in improv the messenger makes the difference. If we are trying to make some sort of statement we must first understand our privilege and those of us with more privilege shouldn't (you can disagree with me but also I am not debating this with any of you because I've earned the right not to do so. Again, find somewhere else.) do certain things or be certain people or make certain statements on stage.
That's because the messenger matters.
I've been at this a long time and recently I was thrown for a loop I didn't see coming. Right now, I perform with a group on Saturday nights where I'm the only female-identified performer. I'm well aware of this not being ideal. It's where we are as a theater. I am surrounded by wonderful humans who put their best foot forward.
That being said they still need to grow and the only way to do that is to fail. They also still have their privilege that sometimes in the moment of improv is easy to forget.
Two choices were made and both made me check out on stage.
I DON'T CHECK OUT ON STAGE! So for me to check out really threw me for a loop. It shook me in a way I didn't see coming. In fact, I'm still in a bit of a haze.
This group only has the best intentions and I addressed it with them. All of them open to feedback and to learn from the moment. If it wasn't this particular group of humans I wouldn't have taken the time.
Frankly, it's exhausting to explain how and why being a female-identified performer is more difficult and I've earned a right not to have to do it. I've earned the right to surround myself with people who won't act in a way that is not okay for the stage, for improv, for paying audiences, and for fellow performers.
If you are in a place of privilege and someone is willing to sit with you and explain why certain choices on stage are hard even if they sound angry, frustrated, sad, deflated, please listen. Remove your own defenses and just listen. Be open to understanding that you will never truly know what it's like but that you will try your hardest to be better. To have empathy and make sure there is space on stage for others. That together we rise. Together we are more interesting because of our varying experiences and points of view.
That there is so much more we can do with improv than typical and over-played tropes.
Work on your craft and your humanity. Be better than you were yesterday and know you'll probably learn even more tomorrow.
As for me, there's a crack or two in the trust wall. There's ways to repair it and I've expressed how to those who need to be included. It was received with acceptance and that is the first step in patching the cracks. It also shows that even after all this time, I can get thrown for a loop. While not an ideal situation on highlighting this fact, I am grateful for the opportunity to grow once more from it and improv.