The music plays softly. Pockets tapped for your wallet and phone, wallet and phone, wallet and phone. You’ve literally stood in this spot a hundred times. You know where the creak in the floor waits. The water bottle in your hand acts like a tent peg to the ground. There to calm the movement wanting to escape from within you. Twisting the lid on and off to the rhythm of the song playing creates a moment of tranquility. Deliberately rock back and forth on the loose board to soothe and quiet the voices bouncing off each side or your head. Let the day go as you stand there. Check your nose, fly, shirt, and give yourself one last shake. Did you lock your truck? Yes of course you did. You always check the handle. Eye contact, establish eye contact. These five minutes hang like an eternity in the air. Breathe even, deep, calm breaths, in and out. Zoom in on what’s being said behind the thin flat. It’s your time to enter. Your name is called. Tap for wallet and phone, wallet and phone. As the audience calls out with cheers, a hush fills your body and mind. Take one last breath before you step through the curtain. The music plays loud. Step out into the quiet light and onto the stage as ready as you’ll ever be.
Tuesday, 2 August 2011
I am always looking at other activities and art forms and comparing them to improv. For example one of my favorites to compare to Improv is Martial Arts, more specifically Kung Fu. There is a great book called Zen in The Martial Arts By: Joe Hyams that is an easy read and has lots of quotes and lessons from Bruce Lee that you can’t help but apply to what we do. I have been chatting with my tattoo artist recently about what she does http://blackrabbittattoostudio.com/ and it started to resonate something in me. She definitely leaves her client with something when the session is done. I am not trying to be clever but rather just find it very fun to see where similarities lie as well as what I can take from other art forms. So let’s get at er then.
We talked about the fact that tattooing is very intimate and very physical. A tattoo artist must be comfortable around their clients also not be shy to touch them. Some people that come in to get inked come with cliché ideas and get butterflies and tribal. These people may only get one tattoo as there wasn’t much meaning behind it, or they may get a whole bunch because it’s really addictive. Then there are people who come in with meaningful ideas and stories to tell about why they chose the design they chose. A tattoo artist must be someone people will open up to. I know my longest session was 5 hours. There is not much to do but talk. I have experienced tattoo artists that were not personable and I swore I’d never go back to them and never did. Connecting and sharing should be part of the process. You come in to have this person take a part of you and literally put it on your body. So in the end you leave and that artist has permanently left a reminder of that time together on your body. That’s something that no matter how much time passes will be there and when you look at it you will be taken back to the time you got it.
What my goal is with improv is to leave the audience with something that reminds them of the experience we all had together during the show. The people who come to get a generic un-meaningful tattoo are perhaps like those that come to see a short form show where they can drink and just laugh for a bit and go home. They won’t invest fully in the show or the experience of getting a tattoo. If they laugh they are fulfilled. They probably attend that show or get that tattoo because their friends are doing the same. We don’t have the advantage tattoos do. First off we can’t actually leave something on our audience’s body that will be there for the rest of their life. (Permanent stamps at the door?) People coming for a tattoo at least have an idea what they are walking in to when they come through the door because tattoos are becoming quite widely known and accepted. Also we don’t really have that ability to make the same kind of intimate physical contact with each person in the audience. So what I’d like to do mentally a tattoo does physically.
I want to try and touch someone in a personal way that will stay with them for as long as possible. Most people get that first tattoo because it means something to them. They are doing the same when giving a suggestion that means something to them. We as improvisers need to take that suggestion and honor it as best we can by giving them what they want. We need to play that suggestion and hopefully relate to not only that audience member but as many others as possible. This concept of leaving them with something at the end of the show has ummmm stuck with me. I think I apply this a lot in my workshops and shows. I want people to leave feeling better then when they got there. I want them to walk more confidently after the workshop is done much like a tough guy with his first tattoo. When they first walk in they may be a bit tentative. Also they may be a bit intimidated by my “passion”. Once you get past all the built up expectations and open yourself up you realize how awesome the experience can be. You can really be present and take so much away from both getting a tattoo and learning this awesome thing called improv. I know walking in to get my first tattoo I was scared to death about how much it was gonna hurt. People walk into their first workshop worked up and scared about how embarrassed they’ll be. Some audiences walk in scared they will get called up and made fun of. If we do our job and connect with them this should help relieve all this anxious energy and put everyone at ease.
If nothing else the image of us tattooing our audience with ideas and a group mind seem like a good way to describe what I am trying to do. Some people will just come watch the show and leave happy because they had a good time. Some may come and really be brought in to what we are doing and if we do our job they may really connect and have a piece of that show stay with them. Just the other day I was outside the theatre and a woman came up to me and said “Hey, Too Tall Tim.” I had no idea what she was talking about until she explained that like 7 years prior she had seen me in an improvised Christmas Carol and remembered that instead of me being Tiny Tim I was Too Tall Tim. That blew me away. She said she had seen me around town and always said to whoever she was with, “There is Too Tall Tim.” That is incredible when you think about how long ago that was. So by being conscious and aware of this power we will definitely have a great tool in the old belt.