Here’s something I see often in my improv classes: Two students will improvise an incredible scene, get tons of laughs, play real and grounded characters, and then when it’s over, they rush off stage and get back to their chairs as quickly as possible, as if they are in the witness protection program. The thought of basking in the glory of their success is too vulnerable.
I get it, we’re complicated. As actors, we are dying to be seen, but at the same time, we are uncomfortable being seen, especially if someone is going to hand out kudos.
I know this has been very true for me. My whole life I wanted to get attention. I was funny, always making people laugh. But at the same time, I felt like I was a burden. As a kid, if went over to a friend’s house and they offered me something to eat or drink, I would lie and say I was fine. In high school, if I locked myself out of my parents’ house late at night, I would rather crawl through a window than ring the doorbell and wake them up. When I started taking improv classes, I never wanted my parents and non-improv friends to come to any of my shows because I felt like I was bothering them, because deep down I felt I was a bother. (God, I hope do not pass this on to my daughter).
My way of dealing with this was to become invisible. My senior year, I refused to be seen and did not get my picture taken for the yearbook. Instead, my name was listed at the back of the book as an invisible senior. It was as if I never existed. I wanted to be seen, I wanted to be noticed, but I was terrified.
So believe me, I get it when my students want to run off stage after kicking ass in a scene so they won’t have to hang around to get some positive feedback. If they’re like me, the message in their heads is “I don’t want to take up any more time from the teacher and the rest of the students,” or “I don’t want to be selfish,” or “I don’t want to be a stage hog.” All of these messages are really saying “I am a burden.”
So, if you are like me and think you are burden or a bother, I want to encourage you to practice not feeling like one. Take up a little more space in your improv classes. Take a risk and be the first person to get out there in exercises and scenes and see how it feels. Do the same in your rehearsals and shows. Yep, you are going feel uncomfortable, and that is the sign you are headed in the right direction. Let me know how it goes.