Saturday night saw the debut of Braised in Texas—the BBQ-inspired improv show I’m in at ColdTowne Theater. Here are my “leftover” thoughts from the show…
1. When ColdTowne Theater is sold out, it’s unlike anywhere else.
Thanks to our director’s promotional efforts—and a buffet of free BBQ and cake before the show began—we debuted to a full house. It was my fourth or fifth time to perform at ColdTowne, but only the first time to a packed theater.
Interestingly, when the room is only a half full it seems even more empty and desolate than other, larger spaces. I’m not sure why this is—perhaps because the audience is so close you can actually see them (or lack of them), while at other theaters they’re hidden behind space and bright lights.
But when that sexy little room is filled with people the energy gets cranked up to 11.
2. Don’t be too polite.
Braised in Texas starts with a series of character introductions. But the order of these introductions isn’t predefined. We step forward when we’re inspired.
When an improviser hesitates to step onstage it’s usually for one of three reasons: (1) they’re nervous and don’t know what to say, (2) they’re being polite and don’t want to seem like a scene hog, and (3) they’re too busy Tweeting backstage.
With the cast of Braised… it’s definitely not (1) or (3). These all-star improvisers don’t suffer from shyness, and I’m not sure any of them even own a smart phone.
So I’m left to attribute the show’s few “dead moments” to politeness. In the interest of deferring to our fellow players, we sometimes hold back or shut off and let someone else have her moment. The problem is: If everyone is being polite to everyone then nobody is making a move, and the show’s rhythm stalls out.
And few things make me cringe more than an empty stage. (More on this topic in an upcoming post!) It was a first show, and the kinks were being worked out, so this is a nit-picky complaint. The bottom line is that we can all crank down our politeness 10-15%.
3. You must trust your director.
When our director, Erika, told us this show would feature a couple of dance numbers, my heart sank. I did not want to dance, not even for a few seconds.
Physicality has always been, and continues to be, my improv nemesis. In the past two years I’ve put on a big chunk of weight, and it’s inhibited the quality of my stage work. I cannot run, jump, and squat with the same speed I once could. I’m nervous about bending at the waist in a scene for fear the audience will be treated to a glimpse of my “trouser pillows.” And while I’m eager to touch my fellow players in a scene, I’m far less comfortable with them touching me. (Much more on this topic in an upcoming post too!)
But Erika had a vision. And I wasn’t about to say “no” to her or my castmates. Thankfully, the dance itself is simple and broken into three distinct parts. The best part? It comes out of nowhere. And so when, on Saturday night, we all started moving in perfect (!!!) unity onstage, it earned a huge response from the audience. Cheers, laughter, a few claps—all for a dance that I was a part of. I was applauded for dancing. This will likely never happen again in my lifetime. I loved it.