Taoblog: Art for Craft’s Sake

I’m Not an Artist

I’m an improviser.

Is improv an art form?

Who cares? I certainly don’t. Perhaps things we do onstage sometimes, in the eyes of some onlookers, become art. That’s great. I’m glad it happens. I’m thrilled for them. Really.

For me, it is an irrelevance. I’ve got scenes to do. I pretty much know how to do them, and when I’m not sure, I know how to approach the performance so that I’m likely to do the most good to my partners and to the audience. I approach it like a craft. Or a team sport.

There are good things to do. There are bad things to do. I believe each piece needs to stand on its own and be a sturdy, solid bit of work on the part of all involved. Sure, it involves inspiration. But not at the cost of a good team performance. Building a birdhouse is a craft that can involve inspiration. It can even reach the status of art. As long as the birds can get in and out of it, it’s a good birdhouse.

Does being an improviser make me an artist? I don’t care. I’m trying to imagine great writers like Charles Bukowsky, Kurt Vonnegut or Charles Dickens sitting in pubs, telling everyone who’d listen what great artists they are. I’m guessing that they just wrote, and never thought about the “art” of it all. They just sat down and did the thing, and were relieved or happy or depressed, or whatever, when a novel was done. They were too busy creating what other people might think was art to worry about whether their work was art.

Some improvisers love to tell themselves that they are all artists, geniuses and poets. I think that’s the result of a lack of self-confidence. I don’t know if people in other areas of endeavor feel the need to exalt themselves in that way.

Maybe we create art. Maybe we are artists. That’s for others to judge. Our task is to learn to do what we do the best we can, and then just do it. Maybe it’s enough to just be present.


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