• Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.


Does Not Transition Smoothly

When team members change.

July 13, 2014

My elementary school report cards were pretty good, with one regular, glaring exception: Does Not Transition Smoothly. This has been true all my life. It takes me a while to warm up to a person, group or activity, and too often it ends just as I'm starting to feel comfortable.

As recorded here, I started performing again in large part as a hedge against the transition to an empty nest. I wanted to throw myself into a challenging, rewarding activity that would engage my interest and energy and help me adjust to Ben's independence.

Acting, singing and improv have definitely engaged me, but they come with transition issues of their own. Plays, films and classes end, usually just as I'm starting to feel safe, and although everyone promises to stay in touch, life gets in the way and we rarely do. (I am as bad as anyone about staying in touch; I think it just saddens me more.)

I thought I had found my solution in my wonderful musical improv team. They are all first rate improvisers who are serious about practicing and performing, and they are also delightful, funny, and kind people who enjoy socializing between engagements. It took me a few weeks to warm up and let loose, but once that happened we were magic together.

Unfortunately, they were too good to last. Three of our eight team members made it onto musical house teams at prominent theaters and found their new practice and performance schedules conflicted too often with ours to make it viable. Two others are on a regular improv team that is getting increasing exposure, and they have decided to table musical improv for a while. The three remaining members chose to disband the team rather than scramble for so many new people.

This happened in the space of a week, and we were all a bit shell shocked. During that time, a friend sent me information about auditions for a regular improv team that performs most weeks at a popular Manhattan venue.

I hate improv auditions. I am fine at acting auditions, because they generally consist of just performing a monologue and/or reading sides for the casting agents or directors. In improv, you are thrown in with a group of people you don't know and asked to be funny on the spot, our you're thrown in with a group of friends and asked to outshine them. Either way I usually freeze up and lose focus. The 3 teams I have joined invited me after positive class experiences, never auditions. Besides, regular improv isn't my forte. I am much more skilled at making up songs on the spot and squeezing them into the narrative structure of musical comedy than I am at simply being funny.

I decided to try out, in the hope that it would serve as exposure therapy, and eventually I would get better at auditioning. To my shock, I had fun at the audition, and I got a place.

I had my last show with my old team on Saturday night, and my first show with my new team on Sunday. Saturday was silly, emotional, loving, and sad. Sunday was awkward, silly, and fun. You see the common thread.

My old team isn't completely dead. We are still hanging out socially, and another member and I are booked for our second 2prov show (which is exactly what it sounds like) at the club where the larger team used to perform. The larger team is considering a reunion performance or two.

My new team, on the other hand, isn't yet fully alive, at least to me. There is a part of me that resists full involvement, fearing that this, too, will disintegrate.

A friend reminded me that evanescence is the nature of improv. Part of growing as a performer is learning to embrace the moment, letting go of what just happened and refraining from planning too far ahead. Probably part of growing as a person will entail learning to apply these skills to real life.


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