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Todays topic: Be Your Own Best Teammate
As some of you know, I coached basketball and track & field for 25 years, and I make lots of parallels between sports and improvisation. Today I’d like to talk about being a good teammate…. to yourself.
When we’re improvising – be it in class, rehearsal or performance, we’re putting ourselves in a vulnerable place. We’re exposed. As performers, we want to be liked of course, and also we hold high expectations for ourselves and naturally can feel upset and disappointed when we don’t meet them.
As improvisers, we can remind ourselves that failure is built into what we do; even when we feel down about a particular moment, or scene, or show, or even several shows, we can take comfort and even joy in the fact that at least we’re playing the game! Better to have improvised and lost than never to have improvised at all.
To do this, I don’t believe that we have to tell ourselves or our partners that “everything was great”. Rather, it might be more honest to just say, “well, that sucked!” and move on. If we want to, we can learn from the experience by watching show footage, discussion, and working on the things that can be worked on; or sometimes just blowing things off as a bad night might be the best course.
On a team level, when we beat ourselves up over these “I Failed” moments we are inadvertently making it too much about ourselves. If we get down during the work, we can’t pay attention to our partners in the ways that improv demands of us, and if we’re too down at intermission or after a show, are pulling a lot of attention our way, perhaps keeping us from recognizing what our teammates/colleagues need from us. Being hard on ourselves is, quite unintentionally, egocentric.
We can be our own best teammate by figuratively (or sometimes literally, I suppose) patting ourselves on the butt and saying “you’ll get ‘em next time”.
I’ll leave you with some quotes, three from actors and two from sports figures, which relate to this dynamic:
You learn you can do your best even when it’s hard, even when you’re tired and maybe hurting a little bit. It feels good to show some courage.
- Joe Namath, 1943 – , American Football Player
Acting provides the fulfillment of never being fulfilled. You’re never as good as you’d like to be. So there’s always something to hope for.
- Glenda Jackson, 1936 – , British Actress and Politician
The basic essential of a great actor is that he loves himself in acting.
- Charlie Chaplin, 1889 – 1977, British Comic Actor, Filmmaker
Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.
- John Wooden, 1910 – 2010, American Basketball Coach and Philosopher
It’s not a field, I think, for people who need to have success every day: if you can’t live with a nightly sort of disaster, you should get out. I wouldn’t describe myself as lacking in confidence, but I would just say that the ghosts you chase you never catch.
- John Malkovich, 1953 – , American Actor, Director