I love when people reach out to me looking for me to share some of my experience in improv. Recently, an improviser contacted me to see if I had done a podcast or written a blog about what to do if you live in a small town and are unhappy with your improv group.
Here’s what he said (edited slightly to protect his anonymity):
“I live in a small town, and am disappointed with my improv troupe. I want to learn and grow, and they just want to hang out and chat. The next nearest troupe is about 45 minutes away. So I see three options: 1. Deal with it and keep going, even though I’m frustrated with them. 2. Stop doing improv for now, until a better option shows up. 3. Try to attend the one farther away, even though I’ll probably not be able to be consistent because of the 90-minute round-trip commute.”
I will now discuss his three options and give him my feedback.
Option 1: Deal with it and keep going
This sounds like a resentment waiting to happen, which, coming from experience, will affect your relationship with the members of the group and your improv.
Improv is small community and even smaller in a small town. If you have not already told your group how you feel, I would suggest that you schedule a time to talk to your group and air your concerns. I have found that whenever I am coaching a team or teaching a class and one person feels a certain way, there are often others who feel the same way they just have not voiced it yet. By you speaking up, you are providing a real service to your group, especially if you stay in the solution.
Try to have an open and honest discussion about your feelings and ask for what you would like without blaming anyone. Remember, no one is wrong. The group is not wrong for wanting to hang out and chat, and you are not wrong for wanting to be challenged.
Remember, also, that the goal in bringing this up to the group is not to change them. You are bringing it up so you can get more information and stay open to the possibilities, just like you do when you are improvising on stage. Same concept applies. You have already come up with three viable options, but there may be many more solutions that you’re not even aware of.
I have been in all kinds of meetings, including improv-related ones, and I can never predicted the outcome. Who knows? After bringing up your concerns to your group, you could:
- fall in love with the group all over again
- They could make you the director
- You could decide to leave
- Other people in the group may feel the same way as you do and you all could work together to get outside coaching via Skype.
This is two percent of what might happen. You will never know if you don’t try.
What if you have already talked to them about your concerns before? My question to you is how long ago did you bring it up and were you expecting them to change? Did you think you were right and they were wrong? If not, you might want to try again.
Option 2: Stop doing improv for now, until a better option comes along
Based on your email, it seems like you are eager and excited about getting better at improv, however, yes, you certainly can stop doing improv for now, until a better option comes along.
If you are going to take a break from improv, how about using that time to figure out what your ideal group we would be? You could then form your own group that aligns with your vision. Putting a group together doesn’t require a ton of people. It could be one or two like-minded people and yourself.
If you do form your own group, I would hire a coach via Skype or go to an improv festival to take workshops. You could come to Chicago and take an intensive together.
In fact, you may want to do this, even if you stay in the original group because it will help you stay inspired. If your creative soul is filled, your improv group may not feel so important. If you are doing something you feel passionate it about, it might make the other group not seem so life and death for you. Just a thought.
Option 3: Attend a group that is farther away
Yes, this another good option, as long as both you and the other improv group are cool with you missing rehearsal sometimes because of your commute. Again, if you did this and you were being challenged, you may feel fulfilled and be able to stay in your original group as well.
The point is, you don’t need to make it so black and white. You have more than three options. I am really excited for you about all the possibilities, and good luck!
Have you experienced a similar situation? How did you handle it? We’d love to hear in the comments below!