I recognize about half of the players as we scatter to claim our seats in the intimate stadium theater. Dark pants, collared shirts, we’re all donning a new uniform for a new production of Denver’s Next Improv Star. (DNIS, Season 11). Zach, of my grad show cohort, is nearby and we each confess to our surprise/fear/excitement at being in the cast. I’m not alone in this. Looking around I recognize about half the actors.
Eric, the show originator and theater owner, successfully shifts the mood over the next half hour from anxious to relaxed as he explains what the show is, what it isn’t, and how this process will unfold. A weekly improv competition, one by one we will be judged and voted off the show. The only way to win is by supporting your fellow players.
Over the next few hours I enter a new realm.
I’m not a selfie person, don’t usually spend much time looking in mirrors, and am shocked at how much I don’t know about putting on makeup for filming. I at least know the names of all the players now and there’ll be four more play dates before the opening. Somehow we all make it through and disband for a month for the holidays. The first steps into merging with a new profession, initiated.
The rehearsals? Nine hours of training with three of last year’s runners up. All uncomfortable (the rehearsals, not the trainers), all great learning experiences. Empathy and admiration for my fellow players is high! And the challenges are, well, challenging, as designed. I walk away with knowledge in my head, and lots of feedback on what needs to change as I coordinate that with what my body is doing (Don’t forget the object in your hand; when someone comes through the door they have a gift to offer; you can pop into a scene to add, and don’t have to actually stay on stage when it doesn’t fit.) Okay so I’m getting better at getting lots of feedback in front of the others. As I take this feedback to heart, I find myself later that week in a separate rehearsal self-correcting. I am learning to rely on my own judgment. (Even as the mistakes continue, at least my self-awareness is improving.)
Produce a two-minute video clip? I have no idea what I’ll do. I’ve had plenty of time to come up with ideas, and try things, but travelling and being sick for three out of four weeks definitely was distracting. And I still haven’t answered the question for myself, “Why should I be Denver’s Next Improv Star?”
One week until it’s due, so I recruit my friends on a preplanned trip to film some ideas I have. Taking the clips home, I arrange the ones I think will tell a story, and put them in imovie. I’m waiting for feedback from my daughter on the draft when I notice a lot of silence in the clips I’ve chosen to use. Maybe she would put in music for me? No I can’t ask that, she’s overwhelmed in her own life. I quash that fantasy.
Her comment back? “I think you should add music, to reinforce the story.” Techno fear is real….I have my bubble, my cone of terror, around it. But I keep moving forward.
I google my way onward, looking to how to add music. Then I have to figure out what I can add legally. Then I google again, for instructions that I can actually apply to my aging equipment. (Did I actually just succumb to using google as a verb?)
OMG it’s soooo much better with music! That is all I can handle for today. I know I may still have to reshoot tomorrow because there are more hurdles, like loading this up to the site.
The first one and a half hours the next day are spent trying to figure out/reinstate a Google address I had for a month years ago and don’t use and can’t recover because my phone number changed five years ago. It is still linked to my email address and I am getting notices that someone will get back to me in five business days.
ARGGH it’s due today. ;-( ;-( .
Somehow I manage to slowly work through one hurdle at a time, and although it takes an hour to load, it works.
Now for the fun…I get to watch what all my peers have created and you can too!
Watch the responses, then VOTE FOR ME (More importantly, vote your conscience, our country needs this.) Then VOTE FOR ME AGAIN (no limit!). Voting is open Monday through Friday noon MST.
Each show will have one less cast member than the last, so this could be your last chance to see your favorite. Get your tickets now, shows will sell out!
Walking through the hall of the uppermost floor of the Bovine Metropolis Theater, I spotted a previous classmate busy drawing on a white board. She had an Einstein/Bovinian focus about her.
The brief exchange began with a nod and a hello. “Are you going to audition for Denver’s Next Improv Star (DNIS)?”, I queried.
“Yes. And you?”
“I haven’t decided.”
“Of course you’re going to do it, ” Claire stated without missing a beat, eyes focused on her writing task.
“We’ll see”, my feet kept me moving forward.
I was surprised by her confidence, her expectation. Of course I wasn’t good enough to get cast. None of my auditions to date had led to being in a show, so how could I possibly be accepted in DNIS, where a star is born (okay, maybe that’s a bit dramatic) ?
Every few days the internal dialogue would ping-pong.
“You’ll get more experience auditioning and playing with new players.” (Gotta do it.)
“You’re going to drive two hours to play for twenty minutes?” (Give it up.)
“That will be one more piece of experience under your belt.”(Gotta do it.)
“You saw the players last year, they were amazing. They really knew how to play. Remember how you thought this might be years down the road, something you could aspire to?”(Give it up.)
“But they really improved, and that is what I want, to get better. Maybe then I’ll get on a team where I can continue to progress.”(Gotta do it.)
“Get real, look at the time commitment, the trips you have planned, the reality of being judged on stage in front of an audience.”(Give it up.)
“Oh, yeah.” ;-(.
One week later, heading into the Beginning Musical Improv class, the inner dialogue shifted once again.
“ How likely is that that your four planned trips are not going to interfere with the time commitments? It’s a sign to go for it.”(Encouragement.)
“You’re still not good enough, by next year you’ll be lots better.”(Procrastination).
Chatting to my instructor, Kat, after class, I mention I’m considering auditioning. Her response, looking at me straight in the eye, “ I would come to see you!”
“You would? Really?” Such an unexpected response!
“ If I do audition do you have any advice?” She was so talented and I really respected her as a teacher. I wrote down what she shared and went on to ask two additional coaches their opinions. Each one shared different guidance, all I recognized as true.
The inner dialogue reconciled.
“Worse case, you get more audition experience. If you get into the cast and are kicked out of the first show, you got three training sessions and show experience. Best case, you go to the finals and get to spend the day after your birthday with talented players, growing even more. “(Getting real/getting uncomfortable, getting real uncomfortable.)
Walking out of the theater, I said goodbye to the two new players I had met at audition, thanked them for playing, and left for home. I didn’t feel like I had done well, but I knew I had done my best. It was different than the other auditions. There was a monologue where you talked about when you fell in love with improv. And there was a dialogue among the players on stage about the performance.
I read the email, filling in the blanks after the first line I’d seen before….”You’re awesome and thanks for auditioning….Unfortunately…”.
Wait, this was different. I had to read it several times before it sunk in. Really? I made the cast? What?! (read with excitement. )Wait, what. I made the cast (read with disbelief.) Fear. Read again. I made the cast! Excitement.
(Part Two: Rehearsals, photo shoots, and a two minute video (lions and tigers and bears) Oh My)