Working on Wednesday: I Have a Show Tonight!
I can't tell you how many times I have posted on social media with those exact words: "I have a show tonight!" A proclamation made in an effort to get people to show up to some little dark room where I'm going to do some improv. After a while, I stopped posting because it was nearly the only thing I was doing on social media. It wasn't working anyway.
I was also working to redefine why I was even participating in the comedy scene in Chicago. As much as I enjoy a big audience that loves a show (laughter is truly like a jolt of pure oxygen), the reason I kept showing up to rehearsals and shows and auditioning and...and...and is because being on stage with friends without a net is a top-notch trust exercise. Improvising, aka being forced to pay your full attention to what is on stage, is the only kind of mindfulness I am any good at. And being silly is the greatest escape in the world from the pressures of being an adult.
When the pandemic hit, everything stopped. At first, as with everything, we were thinking it was just a brief hiatus and we'd be back to our normal schedules in a couple weeks. When it became more apparent this would last much longer and that the entire makeup of the comedy scene in Chicago would fundamentally change forever, there were all kinds of different reactions. A lot of people straight-up left Chicago because they couldn't afford to or didn't want to be here anymore. A number of people just started recording solo material online. Some people figured out how to host group shows and some theaters recognized the value in that ability, given the relative permanence of the situation.
One theater I'm affiliated with is Comedy Sportz Chicago. Back in the Before Times, we put on short form improv shows (think Whose Line Is It Anyway? in athletic-wear) out of a mid-sized theater in the Lakeview neighborhood. They pivoted to online shows almost immediately. It has been such a great gift to have consistency throughout this time. I have had regular rehearsals and shows the entire time during the pandemic. Other than my husband, it has been the single most steadfast part of my life during a very turbulent time.
Maybe it's heretical to say, but I kind of like performing online. It's not the same as the thrill of a live stage and never will be. But I like that I can grab a prop or costume piece to emphasize a character. I enjoy that I can banter in the chat with the audience during the show and that I can tell my team how great I think they are right in the moment. And it's really cool that I can invite people from all over the country and world to watch.
In other words, I am incredibly grateful to still have some form of improv, to still have an outlet, and to still be able to annoy people with show plugs.
So anyway, this is a very VERY longwinded way of saying: