As the year draws to a close, the Puppies reflect on 2013. Last night we had our best show to date. This isn’t a knock on our previous shows, but it’s more of a tribute to where we’ve arrived. We began this trip just over a year ago as a group of short form experienced, long form naive actors. In that time until now time we produced shows that covered just about every type of improv that exists: Two man long form, improvised stand up, invented format (the Beagan), Group games, comedy sportz (ish…), guest spots, guest hosts, THE HAROLD, the mating game and whatever else you might think of, we did it.
We ended up on the floor a bunch. Literally and metaphorically. I learned so many lessons this year. You really do attract more bees with honey. Every time I tried to direct like a nun, the cast seemed to roll up and shy away. I found out that with these people, my best move as a director was to get out of the way. Really. I’m not the most talented improviser on the floor. Ever. I’m not the most experienced. The only thing I have is my dedication to quality and fun. As long as my direction focused on those two things, we shined the most.
I finally learned what it means to play. The value in letting an improv troupe break rules is where the growth occurs. I always believed that learning in improv came from knowing what not to do when a scene failed. It’s just he opposite. A troupe grows when everyone gets to share in a successful moment. The group think remembers this, becomes addicted to it and fights for 90 minutes to hold onto it. The Sick Puppies are driven by our own laughter. As long as we continue to laugh, we’ll continue grow.
You can celebrate your own life in front of an audience. We are a family. Tony and Aniela are cat people, which explains the shirt and expressions on their faces. We tend to be “cat heavy” in our improv. Not coincidentally, we are nostalgia, history, sports, comics, parent and religious themed quite often. We are fortunate to represent so many demographics in our shows. Our fans trust us. They know that if we temporarily get a little racist or blue that we do it all in fun. The Puppies do an excellent job of moving right along when we go too far… I go too far. Usually it’s me.
We have a large cast. I love them all. We’ve seen members move on to other projects and we’re proud to have had them with us for the short time we did. We have some that will likely move on in the coming year. That’s improv. That’s a good thing. It’s keeps us fresh and alive. It means we’re choosing the right people. The ones that are hard to hold onto. The ones that don’t yet see the potential everyone else does. The troupe is about making you the best you and sometimes the best version of you gets pulled away. Nothing makes me happier.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned this year is to take risks. I don’t like to publicly discuss artistic direction or discussion because I find that the artistic process is private. Many of our articles this year pertained to the business of improv, but I wanted to take a moment to talk about artistic risk.
Our best shows this year carried a heavy weight of uncertainty to them. Last night was one of them. We performed a format that many troupes shy away from; especially in a performance. The Harold can come across as self serving, dry and artsy. It’s a great exercise for a troupe because it touches on nearly every aspect of improv, but if done poorly, can be a 30 minute waste of time.
My promise to the cast and our fans is that we will continue to introduce new versions of comedy in 2014. We plan on adding more sketch comedy and even some more stand up. 2013 has easily been the best year of my life. I thank everyone so much for their hard work and friendship. It’s hard to believe that most of you weren’t part of my life over a year ago. You are now and I couldn’t be happier.