Don’t run away from it.

Sometimes, you get a note in practice that on the surface looks like it applies really specifically to that practice, but after a little while you realize it applies to your whole style of play.

Last night, we had the last Improvised Whedon Company practice before our upcoming show. On at least two occasions, our director/coach Kit FitzSimons (I’ve mentioned him before) paused the scene and said, very pointedly and directly to me, “Don’t run away from it.” At both of these points, I very clearly had something I was ready to articulate in the scene, and I was choosing not to, or stopping short. And I guarantee you that in both cases, Kit knew exactly the thing I wanted to say, could see on my face and in my body that I wanted to say it, and could pinpoint the exact moment when I decided not to.

(This is the point at which I could go off on a tangent about why this might be the case, and whether it’s because Kit is extra smart, really good and experienced at improv, or the secret improv best friend I’ve been waiting for my whole life and just gets me. The first two are definitely true. The third is an intriguing possibility that I probably shouldn’t be exploring in such a public forum. Hey, I said I could go off on a tangent, and now I have!)

Back to the matter at hand: In more than one show recently, I’ve found myself hanging back and running away from an idea. I wonder if it’s an overcorrection, if it comes from trying to curb the impulse to stay so attached to my idea that I fail to listen to my scene partner. I wonder if it is giving me the illusion of that generosity I’ve been pursuing. I guess it doesn’t really matter what the source of it is.

What matters is how to move forward. It helps me to think about what I want from a scene partner. I don’t want a scene partner to get out of my way. I want her* to get in it with me (”it” being wherever the scene is going). I’m not inherently an obstacle on stage; I don’t need to move out of my scene partner’s way to let her shine. I need to get in there with her and we need to move together. We need to co-vary.

And now that I’ve used a concept from statistics to explain improv, my work here is done.

(But my work on stage isn’t, and I will be prioritizing “Don’t run away from it” in shows and practices for the foreseeable future.)

*I default to the feminine pronoun, because it’s mine.