Monday, February 7, 2011

Get In There!

Everyone who performs at FNI starts out as an audience member. The transition from seats to stage is easier for some than others; many of the best and most prolific performers I've seen had trouble getting started.

Ultimately, it comes down to taking a deep breath and raising your hand, week after week, but there are steps you can take to push forward.

Be accountable to someone.

In chatting with John Feightner about this topic, we both agreed that what helped us get onstage was knowing that there was someone in the audience judging us if we didn't. At the time, I was taking a workshop taught by Chris Griswold, another FNI alum, along with John and a number of the other people you see consistently on stage. He was an excellent teacher, but while I found myself making progress every class, I still sat in the audience for most shows without volunteering. After a while, Chris gave me a hard time about it, and every week I knew that if I didn't do something onstage, I was going to hear about it. Every game that went by without my hand in the air, I could feel Chris arching his eyebrow higher and higher in my direction. (Real or imagined? I don't know. [Yes I do. It was real.]) It's pretty basic developmental psychology that we crave the approval of the people whose opinions we value and we'll jump through hoops to get it. Pick someone. It can be anyone, but ideally this person is a) comfortable being judgmental and b) someone you want to impress. Promise to get onstage once a week, and be accountable. If none of your friends are judgy enough, come see me, John, or Abby and we'll be your surrogate judger.

Let the Game Do the Heavy Lifting

Games at FNI range widely in the amount of input they require from the players. If you've seen Tag-A-Line, you know it's a game that has two players who only have to day one word at a time when tagged by the other players. That game is a great way to dip your toe in. A game like Minute Fairy Tale is highly structured. You have the skeleton of a plot already and a time limit, so you can feel comfortable not embellishing the story much. The humor is inherent to the time constraint, your job is to play that up and enhance it. Someday you'll be totally comfortable building a scene from the ground up with nothing more than a one-word suggestion, but until then, use the framework of more structured games as a support.

You Already Have Mad Skillz - Highlight Them

As time goes on and you find yourself getting comfortable onstage, you may want to find new challenges by volunteering for games that scare you. But I'm getting ahead of myself! Let's get you onstage in the first place. Different games utilize different amounts of work and skill sets. Try to identify your comfort zones. What do you do in normal life that makes your friends laugh? Are you very physical? Good at charades? Try miming games like Murder Chain and Pledge Break. Do you like word play? Give Jeopardy a shot. Can you write a completely bullshitted research paper for a class you barely attended and pass? Kick ass at the game Balderdash? Challenge might be your game. Starting with games that play to your strengths will make the stage less intimidating.

And what is the everlasting refrain of FNI? Let's say it together, "Failure is Ok!"

Anyone with a story of how you got onstage for the first time - Questions about which game is right for you - Other suggestion? Leave a comment. Let's discuss.

1 comment:

  1. From now on, I use my FNI accountabili-buddy.

    A shot o' whiskey helps calm those nerves. Maybe not best practice?