Deep Or Wide, All Waters Return To Their Source

I am in a recently opened show here in Austin. This is a scripted piece, based loosely on 69 Love Songs. The opening was wonderful, and I'm excited to see what the next few weekends bring.

This is my first scripted work since....1995?

I've had a long history with music, dance and theater, starting at 7 or so and continuing on, unbroken until about 1998

All the work was scripted, composed and choreographed, or stage managed.

I took up improvisation in 2004 and fell in love with it. I love the freedom and control and yet the absolute lack of control. There is give and take in nearly every second on stage. Improvisors peforming longform have to be directors, writers, poets, singers, everything nearly all at once. You have to share and you have to let go into a very particular kind of flowspace. You have an overmind aware of it all, and groupmind, just going along with the action at hand. The excitement and nerves (for me) are like being at the top of a roller coaster, once you go and you are all falling together! It is a wide experience, like a stream of water racing swiftly over smooth stone, fast and powerful and quite a ride.

But. In that hour, it is gone, never to be reproduced again.

Scripted theater has more boundaries, in that the lines are set, the blocking is set, your character is set, costumes, lighting etc. However, there is an experiences of exploration there that is fulfilling. A slightly different action one night, or a different pause another will elicit vastly different reactions in an audience or your fellow player. While there is always, I think, improvisation in a scripted piece, there isn't always a groupmind, there is often a practicality involved, a pragmatism on and off stage. The excitement and nerves are like driving a car at great speed; I still have responsbility for driving my part well and not fucking it up for anyone else. It is a deep experience like a slow moving river making familiar and recognizable grooves in the geography of the experience.

So, case in point. Friday night, one action of mine (placing a flower in the mouth of a blow up doll purposefully) seemed creepy and elicited silence. The next night, the same action (placing a flower in the mouth of a blow up doll apologetically) won me laughter. The beats were basically the same, but the change, subtle. The reaction, dramatic.

I miss that feeling, that opportunity to explore a role and character, to deepen her over time, to play with tone and rhythm and energy that will pull differing reactions from both fellow players and audience.

I will say that I am really pleased with my muscle memory, my ability to memorize lines (to even remember HOW to memorize lines), to remember blocking, to keep on top of cues. Moreso, I am delighted by my newer ability to play with ideas on stage without changing the script, to be able to self correct in the moment when words get inverted, to smoothly and confidently perform past blips. Improvisation has given me that in ways I never ever had before.

I came home on Friday, after we opened, and I was so...just pleased. Pleased. Pleased that what was once a part of me 15 years ago, was still available, and that the newer part, was hand and hand with the older one, getting along swimmingly. I can't tell you how good that felt.


  1. Hey, send me an email with info on where and when these performances are. I have a friend that would be very interested in going. :)
    (Will be in Austin in just over six weeks. Yay!)


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