Awareness for Its Own Sake
“…Finally, there’s the brilliance of understanding. This seems to be the rarest of qualities, and often takes a long time to emerge in an improviser. This kind of brilliance involves seeing both the forest and the trees at the same time. An improviser with understanding knows exactly why he is on the stage and why the troupe is on the stage. He gets the idea.” — The Tao of Improv
Why are you on the stage improvising? Or, if you’re not on the stage improvising but want to be — why?
I’m not sure there’s a right or wrong answer. Well, maybe there are some wrong answers. “To get a laugh at the expense of my teammates” is probably a wrong answer.
I think it’s helpful to know your true motivation. Do you like to hear people applaud you? Do you seek validation? Do you do it to brighten your day? Are you solving a riddle or puzzle by performing improv? Do you love the process? The result? The anticipation? Is it a social experience? An out-of-body experience? Are you a “not funny” person who has discovered that you actually can make people laugh?
For me, the first step is to sit down (can you actually take a step while sitting?…never mind) and quietly examine your true motivation. Be brutally honest with yourself if you must. Once you’ve figured out what it is that makes you do improv, ask some of your fellow improvisers what they think motivates you. You may get a different answer than the one you expect.
The true answer may lie somewhere between your opinion and theirs.
Now that you have come to terms with the thing that turns you on about improvising, you will likely begin to see why it is that you do some of the things that you do onstage. Then, you can begin to determine whether you do things to fulfill your need, or to fulfill the needs of the scene and the team.
Should you neglect your needs for the sake of the team? Maybe sometimes. Should your teammates neglect their needs to satisfy yours? Maybe sometimes.
It’s not either/or. Becoming aware of your motivations is simply a path toward becoming aware. What do you do with newfound awareness? Be aware of it, for starters. It’s a beginning. And as we know from improv scenes, beginnings matter.