My Favorite Parts of Performing: Prep & Notes

It feels weird and a little wrong to admit this, but my favorite part of performing isn’t the performance itself.

Now, obviously, that’s key to the experience. And I love doing it.

But my heart flutters most before a show and after a practice or, in the case of improv, show. (In the non-improv theater, you stop getting notes after previews are done. In the improv theater, you may or may not get notes after a show. But I’m always happy when we do.)

I have a problem with presence, i.e., the being in the moment kind. (And now, we can begin a run of presence/present/presents puns! I’ll let you do that. Come back when you’re done.) I’ve got a bit of a Janus complex, always looking back and looking forward (at this very moment, I’m frustrated with myself for not focusing harder in statistics class today, and excited about having my team over for a movie night), and struggling to be in the moment. So, it makes sense that my favorite part of performing isn’t the actual moment when I’m most in it (though I’m proud to say I am present-as-all-get-out on an improv stage, saving analysis for after the show’s over).

I think one of the reasons I like the getting-ready and the getting-notes is because they are small, shared experiences. When you’re on the stage, yo’ure having a big shared experience: you, your fellow performers, and the audience are all in on something together, and it is MAGIC. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. BUT. When you’re in a dressing room or green room or backstage, or when the house is empty and it’s just you and your fellow performers and the director and crew on the stage, that’s it’s very own brand of magic, and I wouldn’t trade that for the world, either.

In my very first community theater production, I would arrive at the theater an hour before call, just to have some extra quiet time in the space. I was 13. It actually ended up causing a problem for the company; they got charged for the extra time I spent in the dressing room. Oops!

At the improv theater now, sometimes I get called down for notes for a show I didn’t even perform in – I’ll have crewed it, or I’ll just be around, or it’ll be a show with a format similar to the shows I’m on even though technically I’m not on the team – and every time – EVERY TIME – I get a warm feeling of contentment. I think it’s because GIVING & GETTING NOTES, as an activity, is targeted toward continuous improvement, and continuous improvement is pretty much my favorite thing. One of the reasons I’m skeptical that I’ll ever “outgrow” doing improv is that there’s no ceiling on it. You can always keep getting better. There’s always the risk of a bad show, and as devastated as I am when I perceive I’ve had a bad show (I’m usually wrong and at worst have had a mediocre show), I find it oddly exhilarating at the same time to know that 20 years from now, I’ll still be having bad shows and still be finding new ways to be better.

Improv is crack for productivity hobbyists, I guess, is what I’m saying.