Reno isn’t known nationwide for a booming theater scene, but there’s a good chance that will be changing soon. With the innovative Good Luck Macbeth Theatre Co., the boundary-pushing blackbox Bruka Theatre, and Reno Little Theater, which has been in biz since 1935, Reno might just be the best little theater city in America.
This past weekend The Utility Players participated in the 10th annual San Francisco Improv Festival. Amazing does not aptly describe this weekend of improv jamming, watching master improvisers take to the stage, and all the lessons I took away from the experience. One lesson in particular has had a great impact on me; at a workshop we attended, we were asked to step into the middle of a circle and proudly proclaim "I Failed!". We were then met with cheering, clapping, and supportive affirmations. I have never witnessed so many individuals, and actors at that, openly admit that they had failed at something.
Typically, we do everything within our power to disassociate with failure. As part of our personal prehistory and cultural mythology, failure has become a dreaded state of being. As opposed to being able to admit a mistake, a label of "being" is attached to our identity. It is no longer "I failed in this one instance." Instead, we become "failures". And yet, I see an endless parade of memes stating how our greatest failures can be our greatest opportunities for growth and personal development. So why do we run from failure?
I have seen actors, when given notes, compete in a rousing game of mental gymnastics, talking their way out of personal responsibility and ownership. "It was the lights, the crowd, everyone else on stage, Mercury in retrograde, etc." As if admitting failure tarnishes and diminishes their skills or talents. What would our shows look like - and our lives for that matter - if when somebody failed, they shouted with jubilation, "I FAILED", and were met with sincere support and congratulations? I can say that it was definitely easier to step into that circle and admit my own shortcomings when others had bravely acknowledged their's first.
So, I am going to spend less time saving face by rationalizing and justifying my failures, and spend more time simply admitting "I failed," and use all that left-over energy on learning and improving for the future.
I hadn’t been that nervous for a long time.
Was the audience larger than in previous shows? No. Was there a lot riding on the gig? Not necessarily. Had I just foolishly eaten a large burger and some ice cream an hour before lights up? Yes. But the energy that flowed through my body and seemingly invaded my stomach was strong and would be present even without the uncomfortable digestion.
This gig was different.
The crowd was full of people who knew improv. This was truly a jury of one’s own peers. I felt like a fraud. I was afraid the first thing to come out of my mouth would be a block, or that I wouldn’t eat the cheese enough, or that I wouldn’t commit fully to a character. It would be like teaching a course on acting in front of an audience made up entirely of Meryl Streeps.
But then, standing in our Utility Player line as the Emcee introduced us, I lightly hugged Derek, our master keyboardist, and grabbed the shoulders of Chris, our master ginger, and it was like any other show. I was with my family and we were just gonna play for a half hour.
And we did.
We created conflict. We changed the location of a scene before the audience knew what was happening. We stopped time in Tokyo and we Parkoured. We made mistakes. And we left ‘em laughing.
AND WE’LL LEAVE YOU LAUGHING EVERY SATURDAY NIGHT STARTING SEPTEMBER 27TH AT JESTER’S THEATER AT THE SANDS REGENCY!
Sorry. Had to do it.
The Utility Players, Reno's #1 Improv Comedy Troupe, take the stage at The San Francisco Improv Festival on September 14th.
It was our first year ever receiving this email:
The Utility Players’ 8th Season is Live at the Sands!
Casino picks up Reno’s hit comedy troupe for 12-show run
Reno, NV, September 27, 2014: The Sands Casino partners with Reno’s Best Bet for Comedy, The Utility Players, for a weekly Saturday night improv comedy show at the newly revamped Jester’s Theater, inside the Sands. “The Utility Players Season 8: Live at the Sands!” premieres September 27th, 2014, and runs for 12 weeks at the Sands in downtown Reno.
The show is 90 minutes of hard-hitting, side-splitting improv comedy in the style of Whose Line is It Anyway?. Creator and Host, Jessica Levity (Homeslice Productions), takes suggestions from the audience, allowing patrons to co-create the experience with the troupe; each show is always fresh, and always funny. Players create characters, environments, and situations on the spot, based upon those suggestions from the audience. There’s a little bit of something for everyone: musical games, guessing games, and all-original games that The Utility Players have developed over their five and a half years as a troupe. “Any of our fans will tell you that you’re guaranteed to laugh until your face hurts,” says Levity. That’s exactly why everyone from first-timers to longtime fans (called Utilitarians) can expect a one-of-a kind, unforgettable show, each and every time.
This homegrown troupe is excited and thrilled with the opportunity to work with a casino with personality, and one that knows how to have some fun. "The Utility Players are a Reno favorite for comedy, and it's time to share their talents with all of our patrons. Their color and style makes a perfect fit to be “Live at the Sands!", says Ferenc Szony, CEO of Sands Regency. The troupe has much in store for their 8th season, including workshops, classes, a family-friendly improv show called “Big Kids”, another installment of their popular “The Game Show Show”, and performing another brand new, all-original murder mystery, written by Utility Player and local playwright, Chris Daniels. Also, the troupe was accepted into the 10th annual San Francisco Improv Festival for the first time, and will be performing with 27 other improvisational companies from all over the country on September 14.
Tickets for The Utility Players Season 8: Live at the Sands! are available now online at www.sandsregency.com, at the cage inside of the Sands, or at the door. Show begins at 8:00pm, doors open at 7:30pm. The show is Rated R for language and adult themes. For more information about the troupe and the show, check out www.utilityplayerscomedy.com.
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