A few months ago I had a long conversation with Davide, about how different we can experience improv, when we are on stage, and when we are in a workshop room. The discussion was very intriguing, and Davide told me a story, why he quit performing improv. I asked him to write it down and let me translate and publish it on this blog, for Polish improvisers. And that was the first idea of Around the World series. And I’m really glad, that Davide wrote that text for me. When you are in Milan, Italy, go to see his Teatribu, to see how amazing, emotional, and phisical Italian improvisers are.
WHY I QUIT PERFORMING
It’s been a couple of years since I quitted doing improv shows. I’ve been improvising for 15 years and I had several crises, as in every long and solid story, and then I came back stronger than ever on my steps. But this time, this crisis, was different. It was longer and it was relieving. I feel better now.
There are many reasons why I’m not performing anymore, but I can easily sum it up in one sentence: I’m not having fun anymore.
I obviously wondered about this lack of enthusiasm, and I thought that when you do something a lot, even if it’s wonderful as improv is, and, most of all, when a huge passion becomes your job, enthusiasm has to slow down a little.
But in my teaching path I had doubts, crisis, pain, difficulties, but never a fall or a willing to quit. So what’s happening?
I think what makes workshops always challenging is trust and playfulness, which you pursue when you play in a class, especially after some time. Of course there are blocks, hard times, but you know you’re playing in a safe space and you don’t need to build a sofa. The sofa is already there: it’s your group, the space, your teacher, your students. You can dare to fail, you can jump without a net, so you can experience all the benefits improv can give to you.
On stage things change. I noticed that you go onstage and you go for the result. Being in front of an audience make us feel judged, just when we were able to forget about judgment, here it is! And we are afraid of being lame, not original, we want to show off and make people laugh.
And so a big paradox occurs: improv shows are always the same. They all look very similar: maybe you have different characters, different improvisors and different stories, but the dynamics are all the same. This is one reason why, at least here in Italy, people don’t come back to improv shows, unless, of course, they’re improvisers themselves. But then they can create a untrusty mood, because onstage you know there’s people who’s judging you as an improviser, instead of just enjoying the show.
At the end of every show I did I felt unsatisfied, I couldn’t stand critics neither compliments, since I felt them as untrue. And yes, that was my problem, but surely has something to do with the difficulty we have in trusting ourselves and the others (improvisers and the audience) as soon as we jump onstage.
Improvisation is not a product, but a living process, as long as we’ll be focused on the result of our shows, especially the ones supposed to be ‘story-based’, ‘deep’, ‘serious’, ‘meaningful’, ’theatrical’ (what does it mean?), they will be less effective or life-changing than other artforms. Improv unicity stands in her essence.
I think all the genre-based shows, the shows where the audience think (and say): they’re so good/he’s so good/I would never do that! can damage improvisation as an artform and as a possible changer. Because the main change improv expresses is inclusion, is sharing, is ‘I can (must) do it!’
Maybe one day we’ll get there, maybe it’s just a matter of time. Maybe we, or I, have to accept that shows are just a wonderful marketing tool, which help people to know what improv is, and then, through classes, workshops, experiences not related with the stage, understand how big this toy could be, in order to change the world, starting from each one of us.
Til that day I enjoy my free nights!