Recently, it was my great pleasure and honor to coach and play with a fairly new improv group. Their sense of play was great, and it was clear that they’d all had a fair amount of improv schoolin’ from various excellent teachers. And, at one point, I felt compelled to give a note to one member that’s awkward to give to people you know, and more awkward still to give to someone you’ve just met. But it’s a note I’ve felt would be useful to colleagues a thousand times, whether while in rehearsal, performance, or watching a show. But, y’know, if you’re not the director or coach, it’s just bad form, right? So this was the first time I ever gave the note.
“Be aware of what you’re wearing on stage.”
This sounds obvious, but in a form where a) big physicality is more engaging than standing around and talking, and b) performers tend to wear whatever they were wearing off stage (i.e., low rise jeans and/or loose-fitting tops), we occasionally show the audience more than we intended them to see. This is not meant to be a puritanical note. Rather, it’s an acknowledgment that even if the audience is delighted to see our bared breasts or tuchuses (tuchi?)*, if they are seeing them, they’ve been distracted from all the scene work we’ve done up until that point. It makes, even if only for a brief second, the scene about something else. We’ve worked hard for the suspension of disbelief, yeah? So let’s not concede it to a moment of, “Did I just see that actor’s ass?”
Unless, of course, it’s on purpose.
* This issue, by the way, is a gender neutral one. In my own experience, the offenders have more often been male, in fact. So, so many hairy ass cracks.**
** Yes, I know the irony of this note coming from someone who has entered scenes in nothing but his underwear.