Zoom is wonderful but it is not the same as being on stage with other creatives. We all make jokes about how many years has passed during the first few months of the pandemic, however it's barely been one year since the world changed. For GoProv, the year 2020 was supposed to be the break out year where we were going to introduce "the Future of Improv". We had multiple shows in February and early March from a "Laugh and Learn", our annual Valentine's Day is a joke show, a couple private gigs, and of course our epic "3,2,1 Weird" show before we even knew what Coronavirus meant. Our momentum was masked, isolated, quarantined, and ultimately quelled. Thankfully Zoom became commonplace but it's not the same.
There is nothing like standing on stage in front of an audience hearing laughter, cheers, moans/groans, and silence. GoProv will feel accomplished with any of these responses. Our job is to make stuff up. It is as simple as that. No script. No plot. No safety net. Just improv. We have been doing this for almost 13 years. Our monthly shows have been on a scale of somewhere between "Epic" and "Well, that just happened". Most often somewhere in the middle, hell short form improv comedy isn't known for being avant garde.
My most rewarding performances have had an element of vulnerability, a moment of truth, and a time when I could reveal my true self, even if just a glimpse. We have had a few of these moments over the years, many of which have occurred more recently. 2020 was supposed to be the year where improv meets, fringe, meets experimental theatre. I feel myself getting in the weeds and on tangents right now in this post, so maybe I'll focus on the point at hand: a reflection on our 3,2,1 Weird show.
TMLMTBGB...does that mean anything to you? Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind was a Chicago mainstay theatre performance. 30 plays in 60 minutes...or free pizza for everyone. Fast forward to some legal battles and TMLMTBGB changed names to the Neo-Futurists. Inspiration comes in many forms. A Chicago road trip to Second City, iO, and the Neo Futurists fed the creative soul of myself and the team that went on this "research trip". Sharing some thoughts, ideas, inspiration, collaboration, conversation, discussion, hopes, aspirations, White Claw, and dreams with fellow creatives sparked the concept of 3,2,1 Weird.
The 3,21, Weirdos were me, Adrienne, Charlie, Colin, Derek, Dylan, Grace, Joe, Paxton, Sadie, Sydney, and Art House.
Each one of us wrote a short "skit" that included the entire cast. The skit had to be based on a truth or a reality. There were 20 of these 3 minute, 2 minute, or 1 minute sketches titled:
Junk Yard Song
All about that Bass
Is my subconscious trying to kill me or is it just the world
I'm writing a song
Hustled by Ghosts
Us vs Them
Who's afraid of the dark
This is when she dies
Joe's a pee pee boy
2 Spoons and a lie
and Derek Playing Psycho Killer on bass guitar all night
Nothing was more revealing or more vulnerable than "2 spoons and a lie" (we even had a scene where a performer stripped nearly bare so that's saying a lot). The 2 spoons scene required all performers to stand in a line passing 2 spoons from person to person. When the spoons came your way, you would put them over your eyes and state a lie about yourself. This was in the moment, not rehearsed and not scripted. This was completely improvised in the moment. There could have easily been lies like "I once fought a dolphin in a death match" however folks were quite vulnerable with their lies. "I am happy with my sex drive", "I am happy with my body type", "I think people find me funny", and more and more truths were shared in this game about lies. To stand on that stage with my eyes covered while sharing my inner most truths (in the form of a lie) was powerful. I could feel everyone else listening to each other and sharing something personal. It was cathartic, revealing, emotional, and necessary. Having such a creative high right before a pandemic is what got me through the year that was 2020.
I sent this in an email to the collaborators the day after the show "This show started with an idea of creating something silly and I believe we surpassed my expectations. We created a piece of art that was heart warming, charming, silly, absurd, and life changing. The power of artistic expression is important to me. I have greater appreciation of "experimental theatre". The directive was to share something true and personal. The vulnerability, honesty, and creativity that was offered to our audience was remarkable."
I think about 3,2,1 Weird so often to keep the memories alive and thriving in my creative spirit. My own piece "Hustled by Ghosts" about the ghosts who told me I am not good enough, that I can't, that I shouldn't, and that I am nothing no longer haunts me. I have released all of that self doubt and fear of belonging. I know I do not have to fit in with everyone I encounter. There is a world that accepts me for who I am and who I want to be. That world is filled with the people I call family. Every 3,2,1 Weird collaborator and even those audience members who were impacted by our show are family to me.
Yes, I miss performing. Yes, I miss being in an audience. Yes, I miss the world we used to have. I also know that we are going to be better. The "pod", "bubble", and "circle" that we have maintained during this world changing pandemic has proven that quality is far more important than quantity. I am stronger knowing that I am not alone when I have memories, plans, goals, aspirations, and desires.
My final 2 spoons and a lie: "I am happy being alone".