Wednesday, October 28, 2009

For Love Or Money

What keeps you coming back, one show after another?

As improvisers, we have access to a bunch of different kinds of work. Rookie shows, pro shows, pub venues, corporate gigs, festivals, teaching gigs, school shows... They're all different, and each of them gives you something you need. You'd like to think so, anyway.

There was a time when I'd put my hand up to do every gig I could. I find now I don't have time to do all of the things I might like to do; any gig has to compete with family and career.

I find the work I say yes to usually falls in to one of three categories.

For the love


Every working improviser that I can think of is primarily motivated by one thing - the love of it. Improv is amazingly fun and rewarding. Plus you can share it with your non-improviser friends.

If I say yes to a gig for the love of it, it's going to be one of those shows that I just know will leave me with a buzz. One of those shows I'll recount in excruciatingly painful detail to my wife afterwards.

For the money


Sometimes gigs will show up that pay quite decent money, such as corporate work or private parties. Generally it's very important for shows like this to succeed - you have a client spending decent amounts of money on the show, and you want to make sure they aren't disappointed. So the running order is going to capitalise on things that are impressive, or involve the audience, but aren't terribly risky or challenging to the improvisers.

I find the money for these gigs tends to be inversely proportional to the artistic desirability of the show. It is nice to catch up with fellow performers, and on a good night get a nice meal out of it, but mostly these are about paying the rent.

For the growth


Some shows are primarily about building something. It might be that you're working on your own skills and getting more show experience.

When you're just getting started, you learn an awful lot from doing one show after the next, being brilliant, making awful messes, and generally learning your craft.

A related form of development is building a company. You might be helping a show along because it is a vehicle for new folks to join the group, or a way to get the show out there and publicised.

Two out of three ain't bad


If you're lucky, you'll find work that ticks more than one box. If you find you're part of a recurring professional show that pays well and that you really love, fantastic! I've had a series of long-form shows lately that I'm super keen for, where I've had to study styles of music from particular periods or genres and really push myself.

Really, if you love doing improv, you can't go wrong.


Photo by David D. Muir



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