Although I have been coaching independent improv teams for the last six months, this past weekend, I had the pleasure of leading my first ever workshop on two-person scene work.
Unlike my coaching style, which is generally to organically determine the lesson plan, the workshop would require a different approach.
I needed an agenda and a point of view. Not to say that I couldn’t change things up based on the flow, but by leading a workshop, I was positioning myself as an expert. People were looking to me to share my understanding of the “right” way to do two-person scenes.
I practice vulnerability in my own life as much as I can, so in my workshop, I let the participants know that this was new for me – in a way, I was improvising along with them. I wanted to bridge the gap between teacher and student because it made me uncomfortable. Who am I to tell anyone “the right way” to do a two-person scene? I just know how I go about it.
I didn’t want to stand there and say I was “the expert.”
But I realized that there is a limit to honesty when I received the following feedback:
Pretend to be more professional 🙂 …I am confident that you are good with or without [your notes]. I like transparency, but you being too humble can distract from your effectiveness…
In effect, I set myself up to be “the expert:” I offered a workshop. I promised to help people improve at two-person scene work. I charged people to participate. The people who signed up were “yes and-ing” my position of authority. So why didn’t I just accept it?
The discomfort I experienced is similar to what we feel when we start out in improv – we see veteran performers throwing out hilarious lines while we stand timidly on the sidelines wondering what their secret is.
The secret is that there is no secret.
Those improvisers you look up to have all of the same training and tricks. The only difference is that they have experience, which enables them to approach the scene with confidence.
It’s easy to feel like an imposter in any field, improv or otherwise. Who are we to say what’s right or wrong, good or bad? That’s best left to the experts – our bosses, parents, and mentors.
But the truth is, they’re no different than we are. The people we look up to are figuring everything out as they go, giving the best answers they can. The only difference is that they have experience, which allows them to deliver an opinion with confidence so that it sounds like a fact.
You are an expert at something. You might be a veteran improviser with your own view on longform. You might be an engineer, a writer, a bartender. You might be a parent. Your unique experience and skills make you an expert, in your own right, at that thing you spend your time doing. You just have to accept the title.
I had a blast teaching my workshop, and from what I could tell, everyone who attended did too. I just have to remember to act like the expert when I set myself up to be one. I have to accept that gap between student and teacher. After all, that’s why everyone came out last weekend. To listen to what I had to share. To learn together.
If you are interested in taking this workshop but weren’t able to make it last week, please let me know in the comments of this post. With enough interest, I will schedule another one for 2015.
Photo Credit: Julia Madras
Thanks to everyone who came out: Isaac, Erin, Tim, Analicia, Chris, Phoebe, Sue, Jen, Ella, Dan, Mike, and Nick!