One of the four core CSz and ComedySportz values is Collaboration. It’s relative easy to think of collaboration in terms of working with fellow CSz performers, with our audiences, and with our clients for Applied Improvisation. It’s a little more challenging to think about collaboration with performers from rival theaters. On the one hand, all of the improv theaters in a given area share a common goal to enjoy and foster improv as and art form and life skill. On another more practical hand, there are the realities of competitions, particularly for what is often a limited pool of improvisers.
Because improvisers often favor one home theater, often the one where they first took classes or performed, developing an improv group with players from different theaters can be very challenging. It even worse when some theaters, via methods ranging from subtle to overt, pressure their performers not to play elsewhere (for the record, CSz Sacramento has always had an open play policy, i.e., performers can play any where as long as they are also contributing to our theater).
Despite these challenges I am very happy that over the last two years I was able to develop an improv group with the specific goal of combining performers from different theaters. My inspiration was The Traveling Wilburys, the late 80s, early 90s rock super group that included legendary talents Bob Dylan, George Garrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, and Tom Petty. All of these artists had already developed successful careers with other bands or as solo artist.
When I set about forming this group, which came to be named Shower Thoughts, I specifically recruited performers based primary at rival theaters. And as the group has lost performers, I’ve strived to keep at least 50% of the group non-CSz performers. It hasn’t been easy; as mentioned about there are miscellaneous forces that often pull performers back towards their home theaters. It has also been an interesting experience because Shower Thoughts is the first improv group I’ve directed without also performing in as part of the group (more of that difference in a future entry).
Tonight is show #25. Given the monthly performance schedule, that means my little experiment in inter-theater collaboration has now been running for just over two years. I’m delighted with the collaboration within Shower Thoughts, and grateful for all the fun, laughter, learning and camaraderie has provided me the theater.