Civil Liberties & Improv

Today I’m going to (sort of) break my rule to keep this blog improv-focused. Because today is a big day in America.

The Supreme Court ruled this morning that the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8 are unconstitutional. Last night, thanks to a real old-school filibuster by Rep. Wendy Davis, the Texas Senate failed to pass a highly restrictive anti-abortion bill. And yesterday, SCOTUS effectively disemboweled the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (which another proud Texan, Lyndon Johnson, ushered into existence).

If you’re keeping score, that’s 2 for civil liberties and 1 against.

And while I’m not going to shout from my soapbox (because who cares?) or delve into the specifics of any of these issues (because who knows?) I do want to take a moment to try and relate these issues to my beloved art form, improv.

First, let me commend the countless improvisers who showed up at the Texas Capitol building last night and made sure those fat bastards knew they were being closely watched as they tried to skirt the rules and destroy legal access to abortions in much of our great state.

But on a larger scale, let me congratulate everyone in this worldwide community for being, by and large, open-minded and compassionate people who want everyone—everyone—to enjoy the same liberties. The improv community, not just here in Austin but most everywhere, seems to be a progressive one.

And that’s because this particular brand of art demands that we work together. It requires us to be open to each other’s personalities and opinions. And as such, it nudges us toward a more collaborative view of the world in our real lives, i.e., we’re all in this together, so let’s get to work building something great.

Personally, this wasn’t easy for me. I’ve always had a strong anti-authoritarian streak. I’ve often thought that “I know better” than everyone else. I’d never describe myself as a “team player” because I was convinced I could do “it” better on my own, whatever “it” might be. And I was the cockiest little 12-year-old you’d ever met.

But the intervening years have brought me down to earth a bit. Improv has helped speed that up. It’s a near constant reminder that if I want to achieve greatness, I should work first to help ensure those around me achieve it too. Leadership—and I’m not suggesting I lead anything—but leadership is, I think, about wanting everyone around you to achieve greatness too. A rising tide lifts all boats, indeed.

So the old Andrew, who questioned everything he encountered (whether he agreed with it or not), would’ve found the hero worship of Wendy David obnoxious. He would’ve considered the self-congratulations of those who protested at the Capitol last night puke-worthy. After all, isn’t the Governor just going to call another Special Session and cram this dumb bill down our throats anyway?

But now, thanks in part to this community and this brand of artistic expression, I’m focused on the constructive, creative parts of this world. Last night, Wendy Davis and her army created something. They said “yes” by saying “no” to the Republicans’ absurdity. And today the Supreme Court created a more fair, just society.

There are many fights ahead. They’ll never cease. But with a big fat pocketful of “yesses” and an eagerness to work as a team—a troupe?—I’m ready for those battles. I’m ready to fail and then bow and then try again.

Thanks, improv, for helping me rejoin this interconnected, wacky little world we live all live in. All.

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