I don’t want to be on a Harold team and am not ging to sign up for auditions… but I am REALLY curious about how auditions go (never done one!) so I wanted to do it any ways… but since I don’t want to be on a house team right now, I didn’t want to audition and stay in line and all that… so I am not going to sign up. I feel like I’m acting crazy. Am I?
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”—Mark Twain (via girlwithoutwings)
This is a really interesting article. When I read this quote: “Men and women aren’t as comfortable watching women joke about bodily functions, masturbating, sex,” says comedian and television producer Marianne Schaberg. “It ‘creeps’ them out.” My reaction was just “well, deal with it.” Because, you know, women ARE funny, hilarious, and talented in many ways. As a woman used to leading in the man’s world of business (my day job - I manage teams in a big corporation; yep, I’m a “suit”), I came into comedy by chance and thought it would be different, to only realize that the disparity in men / women ratio is the same here. But things are changing and for the better. The G.L.O.C. is a great example of this. I wish improv theaters in NYC would also take this on and address this disparity. Well, maybe some day. My wish is that some day, being a woman will not mean being a minority because there are a little over 50% of women in this world (true statistics - because women live longer). It’s a question of parity, NOT diversity.
In the meantime ladies, keep working hard, being pretty, and showing your funny side. My team, Schmukler Twins (yes, I had to plug something here) is working hard to show our funny - stay tuned for some funny writing and for our monthly show at the Creek coming in June!
That’s why I think I chose improv. Because you’re free. Free to do what you want to do.
Now, you may suffer from it, and you may not be commercial, but it’s you, and you edit your stuff yourself. And you go in your own direction, and say what you want to say. And you may, you may, you know, again: it may go over, it may not. You’re taking chances.
But it’s fun. In the long pull, it’s worth it. Because it’s you. Not somebody else. Not the other guy. People say “I can’t write for you.” That’s alright. Don’t worry about it. Or four or five guys wanna write for you. This is you.
I have been performing with the Schmukler Twins for about 3 months now. We came together following the reshuffling of UCB’s house teams. When you look at the ratio of men to women on the teams, it’s disheartening. I personally don’t want to be on a house team – don’t get me wrong, I DO want to be a performer at the theater. I love the UCB and it’s been good to me; I am infatuated with the entire improve community; and I am dying to be a bona fide performer at one of the best improv theaters in New York. But I am not interested in being on a house team. I’d much rather do my own thing – either a one person show, or even better a slot with my own team (a little like the Doppelganger ladies who are so inspiring!).
However, I, like many other female performers, suffer from the lack of female role models in the world of comedy and improv in New York. Apart from the amazing Drysdale, Gausas, O’Neil, and Murphy’s of this world, there are just fewer women on house teams or performing at the theater in general, despite the fact that there are about equal numbers of men and women who go through the training. I don’t have actual statistics, but just going through the training myself, there were more women in my 101 through 301 class, and then the number dropped dramatically in 401 and even more dramatically in Advanced Studies. I don’t know why this is, but I am guessing that many are, like me, disheartened by the non-equal opportunity offered to women. I almost dropped out of improve in my first 401 because I felt that I didn’t fit it. My improv is not the same as the one performed by 20 to 30 year old white guys and I felt that I was being penalized for it and asked to “align or get out.” Maybe it was a perception but I felt it in my core and I started to hate it.
And then, I decided to take action.
I contacted a few girl friends whom I knew were also frustrated by this lack of equality (I don’t want to call it diversity because well, men-women issues are more related to equality than diversity). That’s how the Schmukler Twins were born. We got together in my apartment a couple of times. Some of us barely knew each other but somehow we clicked. Christina Gausas, whom I didn’t know at the time, nicely responded to an email I sent her out of the blue asking to coach us. She is the best thing that ever happened to comedy and improv, and to us!! We started working with Christina some time in February-March and from the get go it was really strong. We are all at different levels in our improv life – some have been doing this for 8 years, some for 5, some for barely 18 months (that would be me), but we really clicked. The chemistry was obvious from the first practice and only became stronger over the weeks. We hang out together all the time. We have now started writing together and have our own show at the Creek starting June 25. We even created our own form of improv (more on this later when we start our monthly show). I love these girls – they truly ARE my Twins and these are the reasons why.
We’re players with open hands: This is a concept that Christina taught us and that we embraced very quickly. An improv scene is an invitation to play and Christina always encourages us to be players with open hands. Accept the heat and weight of the other player, yes and it, and play with her. This is how open hands works – don’t shut the door to the other player by imposing your ideas. Just accept hers as the reality of the scene, bring your own heat and weight into the scene without denying your partner, and build on it. Use your improv technical skills in addition to acknowledging your partner’s heat and weight and bringing your own into the scene, NOT to stop the action, but rather to move it forward.
We listen to each other: I know this sounds obvious, but we listen with our core, not with our ears. We listen with our body language and our tone of voice, and the words used to express certain things, and with our feelings and emotions. We listen to each other on stage and off.
Our choices come from a place of power: I think this is what I like most about my Twins. We make strong choices, character and emotional choices, and we trust each other fully to keep those choices. We know that once we set foot on stage, one of our Twins will follow who will make a strong choice. Improv comes from a true place and a place of power. We are not “polite” improvisers. Sometimes our scenes become crazy, but they always start in a true place. Our improv etiquette is different from the one I’ve heard of. When someone steps on stage a certain way, they don’t need to use words, language is only a supplement to the heat and weight; we know simply stepping out a certain way can be an initiation by itself. We make affirmations, we are powerful, and we know we can count on our Twin to move the scene forward with us. We are not tentative players.
We fully trust each other: This is what makes us powerful players. I know that, when I make a choice, my Twins will back it up. I don’t know where it’s going, but I know that it will move forward with every move we make. We also fully trust each other outside of improv. We’ve become each others’ best friends, sisters, confidents, family, really quickly and share our most intimate thoughts. We also never get enough of each other, and we always end our meetings with “When is the next one.” When we get together, we spend a little time talking about improv, and a lot of time talking bout everything else – i.e. life.
We’re not judging each other but are giving each other notes to get better: This comes from the strong trust we have in each other. We trust and respect each other and are able to give each other notes and take notes without judging. This is key to who we are – we’re not judgmental and we don’t feel judged. Every move is a gift and we help each other get better.
We’re not individuals on a team, we are one team: We all have strong personalities, but we don’t let these individualities and strong personalities get in the way of who we are. We are ONE team. We are all distinctive and we complement each other. We don’t compare ourselves to each other and to other teams, we don’t try to copy anybody, we are a unit and we are unique.
We’re different: I mean we are REALLY different. Our age spans from 24 to 44 (!!!), we are from different ethnicities and nationalities, we cover different religions and religious views, our sexual orientations go from extremely straight (yes, you can be extremely straight, believe me) to gay to everything in between; hell, we even have different hair colors and fashion tastes! We are seven.
We’re similar: We’re surprisingly similar in many MANY ways. I think we share core values: We’re loving and supportive; we’re honest and straightforward; we’re positive and caring; we’re respectful of each other and each other’s ideas and personalities. We are one.
Many great shows this month - look for Drysdale & Gausas, Welcome to Camp, The C Word, The Unrehearsed, Inaccurate Story Of, and also the FINAL Chris Gethard show on May 14 at midnight!! Don’t miss out on what will certainly be the talk on the town!