Taoblog: The Sanctity of Rehearsal

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“We need to be willing to go against our natures when in scenes.”   — The Tao of Improv


Here’s a personal revelation: When I’m doing improv, I’m serious as hell about it. That’s not to say that I’m not enjoying it. I’m just seriously enjoying it. Particularly in rehearsal.

In rehearsal, it’s likely that you’re doing things you’re not comfortable doing. You may be doing them for the first time. It’s possible that some demon director is coercing you to do things onstage, in front of your peers, that you’d never otherwise do. You are very likely a few miles outside of your comfort zone, trusting that your peers understand and will never judge you. You trust them and the director. It’s often an act of faith.

Here’s where it gets controversial: I’m of the opinion that cameras (particularly smartphone cameras) have no place in a rehearsal (unless the director is staging publicity shots). I believe it is impossible to trust your fellow improvisers if they moonlight as clandestine paparazzi. There are those who disagree. (They are entitled to their erroneous opinion.)

If your rehearsals are closed to the general public (as I suspect most are), it’s for a reason. Partly, it’s to minimize disruption. But it also has to do with feeling like you are in a safe space with like-minded people. You need to feel as though you can fall flat on your face (sometimes literally), make an absolute ass of yourself, get the exercise all wrong, look foolish…without fear of judgment.

Once, a director asked me in a rehearsal scene to do the scene as Elmer Fudd (voice, mannerisms and all), and to dance around like a ballerina, as well. Not something I’d do unless I lost a bet. I was not thrilled. But I did it. I’m sure I turned a few shades of red (for you extroverts out there, it’s called “having a sense of dignity”… look it up). But I survived.

Later, I found that some teammate had recorded the whole thing on her iPhone, and uploaded the video to be viewed by the general public on Facebook. A vulnerable moment, not of my own choosing, captured and published without my knowledge.

I never felt safe there again.

What happens on the inside of a rehearsal should not be seen by those who are on the outside, except in very special circumstances. That’s my humble opinion.

You can secretly videotape me and share it, or I can trust you. Pick one.


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