Tag Archives: letter

In which Piglet, a Very Small Animal, is more important than he thinks

There’s a player who tends to hug the back wall during workshops and shows, either because of fear or because he wants to make sure everyone else has had a turn. Too often, though, he never takes a turn himself. We’ll call this player Piglet.
Dear Piglet,
I want to see more of you, but you seem afraid to leave the sidelines.
It’s a little Anxious to be a Very Small Animal Entirely Surrounded by players who think they have more Brains and more Bounce than anyone else. You may think, “If they want me in their scene, they’ll ask me, or they’ll pull me in. They look like they have everything under control on their own. I don’t want to rock the boat.”
Piglet, you can’t stay in your corner of the Forest, waiting for others to come to you; you have to go to them sometimes.
I know you’re worried about The Worst happening. Maybe it would help to say The Worst out loud. Supposing The Worst happened, what then? And what would happen after that? Usually, The Worst thing that can happen if you take a big risk is that you’ll look silly and people will laugh at you. But this is an improv show, so that’s actually a good thing. That means you can give all your Supposings a rest.
Here’s a secret: Other players could stand to be a little more like you. I know you’re Very Small, but you’re thoughtful. You are willing to give away the spotlight, and that can be a Noble Thing, as long as you’re doing it to build someone else up and not just to hide yourself.
Some of those Brainier, Bouncier players need to learn a little Consideration, a little Thought for Others. Because you have those things, I’m going to ask you to be very brave and to take lots of turns next time you play with your troupe. You know how much you need all of them; now you need to realize how much they need you, too. 
Love,
Alyssa

In which Eeyore’s audience is Kind and has Brains.

In some troupes I’ve been in and others I’ve coached, I’ve noticed a tendency to argue with the audience after the show is over. We’ll call one of these troupe members Eeyore.

Dear Eeyore,

When someone from the audience approaches you after the show and says, “Good show, Eeyore!” say, “Thank you. I’m glad you came.” Then stop talking.

Always say thank you, even if you didn’t think you did a good job. This audience has not only paid to see you play but has also sought you out afterward to say hello. That makes it a Kind and Thoughtful audience.

If you say, “Really? You think so?” it seems like you are asking your audience for specific critique. That is your coach’s job, not your audience’s. 

If you say, “Thank you, but I didn’t feel very good about it,” that makes it seem like you don’t think very highly of your audience. 

When someone tells you you did a good job, believe that they mean what they say. If you disagree or question them, you are suggesting either that he is a liar, or else a Bear with a Pleasing Manner but a Positively Startling Lack of Brain.

They’ve got Brains, all of them, not only grey fluff that’s blown into their heads by mistake. They Think. And we already know that they are Kind and Thoughtful, so let us assume they are telling the truth. They really did enjoy your show.

A little Consideration, a little Thought for Others, makes all the difference. Just say thank you.
Love,
Alyssa

In which Rabbit has an amazing audience.

I’ve coached several troupes, most of them at the local college. A couple of years ago, after a rocky show, I heard a troupe member complaining, “Well, that just wasn’t a good audience.” We’ll call this troupe member Rabbit.

Dear Rabbit,

Do not complain about the audience.

The audience does not control your show. 

An audience can’t make a show good, and an audience can’t ruin it.

At your small Christian college, the audience is especially gracious. That can be more harmful than helpful, because sometimes they laugh just to be polite, and it’s easy to become dazed by their laughter and lose focus.

The audience is full of your Friends-and-Relations, who are going to cheer for you no matter what because they know you, Rabbit. They’re on your side. They want to make you happy because you’re a nice guy, and they want you to keep inviting them over for honey and tea.

You don’t want the audience to laugh and cheer just because you’re Rabbit. You want them to laugh and cheer because something they saw and heard resonated with them.

If they don’t laugh, it’s not because there’s something wrong with the audience. They showed up, they paid a dollar, and that makes them an amazing audience, Rabbit.

A real bad audience would be one that didn’t plan on seeing an improv show. They were sitting in a bar or a coffee shop, trying to talk with their friends or do homework, and somehow an improv show interrupted them. That’s a bad audience, but it’s not their fault, because they didn’t buy into this whole improv thing in the first place. (Theater is a lot like church in that way, but we can talk about that another time.)

One day you may look out into the audience and see not a single Friend-or-Relation, and that’s ok. It might mean that you’ve gotten good enough that strangers want to watch.You may never have an audience as much on your side as your Friends-and-Relations are, so this is a time to play hard. You know they’ll love you even if you fail, so there’s no point holding back.

Big or small, loud or soft, familiar or strange, your audience is amazing. Make sure to say thank you.

Love,
Alyssa