There’s a scene in 500 Days of Summer where we see a split screen of Joseph Gordon Levitt’s character’s expectations, versus reality.
That’s how I felt the first year I produced The October 21st Greater Toronto Improv Festival.
For those who don’t know, the O21GTIF is a one-day festival. In other words, a show. A regular show. Except in my mind.
You wanna talk expectations?
I shit you not, I pictured (and believed) I’d need a velvet rope to control the crowds in the alley fighting to get in. I emailed the teams involved to warn them that they probably wouldn’t get seats to see the other teams perform. AND, and this is true, I fought with people at the venue because I wanted to knock down a wall to make more room for seating. I was, as they say, batshit crazy.
The show was stacked with amazing performers and more than anything I wanted the world to see them. I wanted the whole goddamn world to be there and experience the joy and love of improv and spread that love around the world.
The night of the event about 25 people showed up.
I was devastated. Where were the crowds? Where were the news cameras? Where were the ghosts of my grandparents proudly doing a slow clap? Where was the whole world?
To make matters worse, my team was the opening act. I struggled through the set with a broken heart and mind, handed over hosting duties to my teammate Isaac, and collapsed onto one of the many empty seats in the audience. Defeated.
Two things I learned that night:
1) It’s much worse in your mind than it actually is.
I remember going to the bar after, and the other performers were laughing and having a good time and talking about how fun the show was. Outside my devastated mind, a great show had happened. Wish I’d been there (mentally) to see it.
2) Know the difference between expectations and reality.
There’s nothing wrong with dreaming, and dreaming big. Just know that desperately wanting something to happen doesn’t guarantee it’ll happen. 500 “going” on facebook doesn’t quite translate to 500 actually showing up. Or 50.
This last year I took my own advice and went in with no expectations, and fucking loved it. So much fun. I was more relaxed and open to whatever, and enjoyed the shit out of it. And not surprisingly, when you’re not smacking of desperation for people to show up, more people show up.
I recommend everyone try and produce their own show at least once. You’ll grow as a performer, and as a person. And I guarantee you’ll appreciate producers a hell of a lot more.