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At the risk of sounding like the old man standing on his porch shouting “Get off my lawn, you kids,” I need to kvetch.

One of the reasons many see improvisers as the 19th century public saw actors (“No Dogs or Actors Allowed!”) is that we don’t carry ourselves in a professional manner. We aren’t acting professionally nor are we treating each other professionally.

In the past month I’ve had three groups who’ve hired me to coach them cancel at the last minute. It’s unprofessional and it’s a bad precedent. I’ve lost work, time and money. I and many of the other teachers and coaches and directors that are hired spend a great deal of time preparing for these sessions, thinking about how to help individual casts find their voice, finesse their shows, further their careers, and, perhaps, make money. Yes, make money.

If you’re doing this for the art, cool, I get it. But there’s also a few shekels to be made from some of this work. The more of us who see the possibilities in that, the more the public will respond to the strong work being presented. The more we work on our craft with focused professionals the better we look. The better we look the more the public will see how great this art form can be. Should you blow off rehearsals when you’ve hired someone to come and work with you, you’re not just diluting the power of your work, you’re also continuing this idea that theatrical improvisation is merely a parlor game, or a series of easy jokes, or an evening of sloppy work delivered by shitty actors. I know that’s not who we are. I know we are able to do better.

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. By the same token, you are the one that’s ultimately responsible for you being treated respectfully and honorably. If I say, “Hey, it’s okay that we scheduled a rehearsal and no one showed up,” that doesn’t serve any of us.

I allow you to treat me the way you do. Should I stand up and say, “No, we can all do better,” that doesn’t just make me stronger, it makes all of us see this work with professional eyes and hearts.

Honor me and my time. In the end that will serve us all.

Photo © Kevin Thom

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