Gender, Storytelling and Culture

All this pitting of sex against sex, of quality against quality; all this claiming of superiority and imputing of inferiority belong to the private-school stage of human existence where there are sides, and it is necessary for one side to beat another side.  ~Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own, 1929

On Saturday, my improv group, NERDProv, performed at GeekGirlCon. We had a really fun show, got a lot of compliments, and all of us felt pretty good about the show. In notes, we realized that the show had been pretty heavy with males playing main characters. And then one of our members forwarded us a strong, well-expressed and fair piece of criticism from an audience member who walked out. It echoed some things we talked about in notes, so it really hit home.

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The Dark Forest Of SadProv

“Nothing is as poor and melancholy as an art that is interested in itself and not its subject.” –Santayana

Ever watched or performed in a vague, low-energy, hesitant, abstract scene that seemed like it might be about something important, if the audience could just keep their eyes open long enough to be sure?

Ever watched an improv showcase, and felt like the earlier classes were a lot more fun to watch than the more experienced students?

Ever ended a show with that feeling that it should have either been funnier or more meaningful, the cast divided, and everyone shrugging and not sure what to do about it?

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Improv Ensemble Auditions

Unexpected Productions auditioned about seventy people last weekend, and cast six improvisers to join the Seattle Theatresports ensemble. There are far more than six great improvisers in Seattle, and there are always a lot of disappointed people. Many of the people we can’t take are friends, supporters, students, and people we want to see on our stage: either down the road in Theatresports, or in other shows.

I’ve been on the other side of the fence. I was rejected in my first audition for Theatresports, in 2007, after waiting over a year to audition. I was a strong students, and many people told me they thought I had a great chance. It was a pretty big letdown, and while I stuck with it, I remember having a nervous two weeks waiting to hear, and another lousy two weeks after hearing “no”.

Anyway, I like to eavesdrop auditioners’ feedback about the process, as well as what people think about before and after auditions, and I thought I’d talk about some common misconceptions that I don’t think are helpful, now that I’ve seen the other side of the fence a few times. I’m going to talk about our ensemble, but I suspect much of this applies to most professional improv groups: at least those in cities where politics and “who-you-know” hold sway. All of this is my own, personal opinion, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the opinions of my theater.

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