After my Harold Audition post, I received this email—-
I know you’re busy, so please get back to me whenever you get the chance. I’m an improviser who has been training at UCB for the past year. I just completed my first ASH with Delaney and I’m on an indie team that practices / performs consistently. I just wanted to ask you a quick question: how much is too much improv? What I mean is, I recently read a blog post by Mullaney and it said that improvisers shouldn’t just be watching/doing improv. And I’ve also read this similar sentiment in a few improv books, which stress that players shouldn’t burn themselves out on improv. Yet, in a recent post you state “When I was put on my first Harold Team, I was rehearsing three times a week (for three hours at a time), taking a class with Michael Delaney, performing at least once a week (and getting notes from a coach after most of those shows), watching ALL of Harold Night every week as well as tons of other improv, then going out and dissecting the performances I’d just seen with fellow improvisers to work the muscles of isolating game, heightening, etc.Every week.” So I guess I’m asking what your input is concerning the balance between seeing / doing a ton of improv and making sure you don’t get burnt out.
Dan was kind enough to allow me to repost his question and answer it here…which took me a few days because, he’s right, I am very very busy.**
Anyway, here’s my take on this age-old question. If Tumblr weren’t such a lousy platform for discussions, I’d ask to hear other people’s thoughts on the subject. But as it is, feel free to reply or repost or ignore as you see fit.
When you’re learning improv, you submerse yourself in it because you’re learning HOW to do it. Sure, you love it and it’s fun, but the goal of practicing, performing, watching and discussing it so much is to work your brain muscle on the fundamentals.
The reason it’s important to do escape from improv is because you have to live in the world and experience the world in order to reflect it and recreate it on stage. In other words, you can’t just learn HOW to improvise, you also have to keep experiencing things so you have more and more things to improvise ABOUT.
Malcolm Gladwell has a theory that genius is not actually innate talent, rather it’s an innate overwhelming love for a specific thing that spurs the person to devote massive time and energy towards mastering that thing (I’m paraphrasing). Sometimes I feel like the horrible secret of interpretive artforms like improv is that to master them, you have to be two kinds of geniuses at once. The best improvisers I’ve ever seen are students of the form and students of the world. Which is probably why, after all these years, those same improvisers - the ones who still love it in their bones and can’t quite bring themselves to just screw around on stage or move on to more lucrative endeavors - still feel like they have so much to learn.
**Mostly I have been playing Draw Something.