So...why the picture of the amazing, world-renowned improv group We Are Vanessa?
Well, one of the key pillars of improvisation is support. And that's what I want to talk about today.
No, I don't mean knee support, boob support, or even credit support. I'm not going into the key traits of a supportive scene partner (although I'll keep that one on the back burner for later), and I don't want to talk about supporting your character choices.
Today is all about supporting each other as artists.
"SUPPORTING EACH OTHER AS ARTISTS"
How do we support the people we know who are artists?
The answer to the question seems fairly simple, but I was recently reminded of how often we forget it.
The past two shows that I've been a part of have been through a smaller, less well-known theater company in the area. I wasn't doing those shows for exposure--I knew that crowds were going to be small--I was doing them because I liked the play and was looking forward to working on different styles of theater and scripts.
I wasn't prepared for how small the crowds would be though. Even with moderate advertisement and recognizable faces in the cast for the first show, we had several performances where there were more people on stage than in the audience. And then the second show, even though it was part of a festival and even though it was a national premiere with only two performances, only drew in seven people our second night.
Let me stop you before you draw the wrong assumptions. This post isn't meant to make you feel guilty. This isn't me throwing a prima dona fit on the internet because we didn't have a sold out crowd. No, I don't think you (or anyone else) intentionally didn't go and see the shows because you are a selfish and terrible person. I think that people just forget what their friends are doing sometimes because, let's face it, we're all really fucking busy.
I'm just as guilty of not supporting my friends who are artists as the next person. This is the first time in almost year that I haven't had rehearsals or performances eating up my nights and weekends. And am I running out and buying tickets to all the amazing shows my friends are putting on? Hell no. I'm trying to figure out how long I can possibly stay on this couch doing absolutely nothing before I have to get up and use the bathroom. Am I reading up on the latest gallery openings and visiting coffee shops to purchase paintings my friends have created? Not unless they're on my Pokemon Go route and also have a PokeStop with active lure.
The point is, even artists forget to support artists. It happens. You've got work, maybe a spouse or significant other, maybe kids or pets or both, you've got families, grumpy neighbors, noisy mockingbirds, all of Memphis on your doorstep. Your plate is pretty full. I get that. But we can all find an evening or a few hours on our weekend to break away and visit the theater or art museum or Overton Square festival or a bar with a local band playing.
And please understand that supporting doesn't equal giving someone your unconditional gratitude and a sandwich in exchange for their creativity. Although good vibes and food are appreciated, they don't pay the rent or actively help an artist's pursuit of financial independence. Spending money sucks (I know. I'm so poor I can't afford dirt). But quit whining and forgo a few Starbucks coffees next week so you can buy that ticket or new album or whatever. Your kidneys will thank you for it.
Yes, art is usually overpriced, and for most actors they'll never see a dime of your money, but that financial contribution is what makes it possible for us to entertain you and bring you joy (or whatever emotion you're going for).
And actually show up to things like performances or grand openings or award ceremonies or whatever the hell else your artsy friend has coming up. Nine times out of ten there will be alcohol and some kind of munchy. And I can't tell you how much your presence means, especially to performers. It is one of the most disheartening experiences to look out in an audience and see only two people sitting there in the dim house lights. Or to come back onstage in the second act and see that half your audience is gone (yes, we can see your empty seats). Please, we're just asking for maybe two hours of your time. Hulu, HBOGO, and Netflix have all of your shows saved and waiting for you.
I'm sorry. I didn't mean to get all preachy there at the end. I know we're all doing our best. This is just a friendly reminder that if we don't support each other, nobody else will. Now go out and spread the love!!