Improv Can Break You
Recently, I made a post on FB that was part comedy, part frustration, and part sharing how one’s mind can get wrapped up in your own thoughts. Sprinkled in there was my frustration with being sidelined in improv as well as what appears to be the growth of another group/theater. I one hundred percent believe rising tides lift all ships. When I was leading a community, I’d have to keep my mouth quiet for the good and protection of my community and all of improv. I no longer have that role and its part freeing part jarring part confusing.
It’s also a point of hurt because this particular group was once part of AdLib. Not just part, an integral part. Not to the theater, to my life. They brought me joy, safety, and security week after week. As a theater, there are limitations on what can be provided and unfortunately, they outgrew what and who we were.
That is fine and will always be fine. It was how they chose to leave that was harmful on a very personal level. I know there are ways I too could have communicated better about that. I’ve done a lot of reflection and repair on that with myself and my community. Thing is the personal hurt that I could only show to a select few lingered and continues to linger.
It lingers part because of the personal nature of the attacks I received and the other approach is how I integrate improv and my approach. My approach is relational, vulnerable, and I have spent years working really hard to become good enough to lead others.
I never asked others to not participate in what they created and now I am not shackled by looking out for the whole that I can speak more openly. I can express my opinions and I can show that I am human.
So I expressed an opinion on FB and as it is often the case here in the Orlando community, a male improviser chose to give his opinion and let me know that my post was a reflection of bad leadership and that I'm not a good person because of that.
I could interpret that as perhaps he sees me as a colleague and I shouldn’t do that as I might want to become part of this community once again. If that was the case, he would have messaged me privately and with compassion.
It’s not the case and I know this to be true because that sums up 10 years of improv in this community. We have bullies who shut your voice down on and off stage. We have performers others won't be in a room alone with but won't share that with just anyone because they fear retribution. I can go on and on. I don't want to because it's exhausting. No one stands up and says a thing in fear of stage time being taken away or being told that isn’t a very “yes, and “ attitude and why say anything because things won't change.
Inclusion isn’t injecting toxicity and fear into a community. We are allowed to have different opinions to speak up when we are hurt. I allowed that in my own theater. So much so that people felt they no longer had a voice and needed to go share it elsewhere and you know what, that’s okay. Of course, that’s okay.
Thing is people love to talk shit about me behind my back, undermine what I am doing because it feels too “radical”, and ultimately paint me as the one who is the problem.
I say it over and over that, I hold no ill will toward people who left but that doesn’t mean I have to happily support what they do or believe in their cause. It also means if you respect me and choose to engage or participate my feelings might be hurt and I might question if there really is a place for me left but it doesn’t make me think less of you.
Ultimately, I didn’t engage with the guy. Instead, I deleted the comment and blocked him. In the past, I would of taken down my post, sitting in shame while reaching out to him privately and thanking him for looking out for our community because making ripples with people like that could cause even larger riffs in this already broken community.
I don’t have to do that anymore nor do I want to do that. If you are reading this and part of our community, I hope you don’t feel like you have to be silent.
It’s a harsh reminder of the gender/inclusion/color issues so many of us still face in our improv communities and society. How some guy can make us feel so small. That they can push our words back down our throats and make us feel like we are choking. They do it on stage, in the classrooms, and in places, they have no business to inject an opinion.
I even considered stopping any blogs that have to do with improv tips altogether wondering if just doing that put me in a position of “mentor” and I’m not sure where I stand on that just yet. I constantly think about how improv can help the individual and even have an entirely different curriculum sitting in my head that is about relational improv but it’s moments like these where I feel defeated. Where I am legit terrified to make a public post on a public community page about taking a class or workshop because of the bullies and toxic talking behind my back. When I was at AdLib it would all find it’s way back to me and now I am pretty reactive and covered in fear.
Knowing what it requires to market and promote means having to show myself once again in these public areas of our community at large and I do not feel safe and it breaks my heart.
I don’t have a real ending for this nor a thought or mantra or “let’s keep going forward together”. Instead, it’s heartache and poison. I often think if my recovery from this injury allows me to return I won’t ever have an improv home again unless I move away and one can’t just move away for improv when one is a mom and wife. I’ve seen how much improv can repair and heal others yet it has broken me.