Have you ever gotten a note from an improv teacher that you didn’t agree with?
Did it make you feel confused, frustrated or even ashamed, like you had done something wrong? I assure you, you have not.
They say that there are no mistakes in improv. But that doesn’t apply to teachers giving notes.
If you are like me, you’re probably like “No way. The teacher can’t make a mistake. They know a lot more about improv than I do, so whatever he says must be right.”
The teacher may know more about improv than you do, but they don’t know more about you and your creative process. When you go to the doctor, they may be the expert on medicine, but you are the expert on your body, since you are the one in it. The same thing applies with your creative process.
Believe me, as an improv teacher, I wish was correct 100% of the time, but I’m not. After all, improv is a subjective artform, so the feedback and suggestions that I give to my students are just how I see things, but they’re not gospel.
So, if you get a note from a teacher and it doesn’t sit well with you, I encourage you to speak up in the moment about how you feel about the note. I know it’s scary as shit to do that. When I’ve given notes, sometimes students have said, “That put me in my head” or “It shut me down” or “I don’t understand.” This gives the teacher an opportunity to adjust their feedback and you may get a note that actually helps you.
As messy and imperfect as this can be, as a teacher, it gives me more information about that student’s creative process and how to give them even better notes in the future.
I know how hard it is to speak up in the moment, and if you struggle with this, the next best thing you can do is to e-mail your teacher and bring up your concerns at the top of the next class.
And maybe the next time you get a note you don’t agree with, you may even say in your head, “Gee, I don’t think that applies to me,” or “Whatever. My teacher is way off base here,” and not turn your teacher into God.
At the beginning of each new improv class or workshop, I often tell my students that when it comes to notes, take what you like and leave the rest.
As an improv teacher, my goal is to collaborate with my students, so they can find their voice with the help of the class, not only on stage but in their own lives as well.