Para las Mujeres! Women in Improv!

Discussion of the art and craft of improvisation.

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Postby kaci_beeler » June 15th, 2011, 10:38 pm

Jastroch wrote:
dancrumb wrote:I feel like this thread took a nasty detour into the land of mental masturbation...

...I relish robust debate as much as the next person, but let's not disappear up our own arseholes with debates about solutions for imagined scenarios when there are *real* scenarios that exist that merit consideration.


Sorry you feel this way. But these are important issues to me, and worthy of discussion. This being a discussion board, I felt that it was within the scope of discussion to raise these issues in a polite inquisitive manner.

Massive apologies to all offended by the nasty turn this discussion took


I don't mind the tangents so much, I just think they should become a separate discussion in another thread if they get too far away from the original topic. That way we can focus in and I can more easily follow the discussion.

Also, I am not offended, for the record.
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Postby York99 » June 15th, 2011, 11:43 pm

I actually don't think the discussion took a tangent. I think we just explored it deeper. To really understand issues that women face in improv, it's very worthwhile to get into the nitty gritty. Can we compare women's issues to those that (other) minorities face? If so, maybe we can learn how those groups address their issues and perhaps share knowledge. That's just one reason why it's useful to cross every t and dot every j.

Plus, this section of the forum is called "Improv Theory & Practice." To me, that's an excuse to put on a beret, pour some Absinthe and get old-school philosophical. That means asking big questions, trying to draw conclusions, and then dissecting those conclusions. For the most part, I think it's been a pretty civil, intelligent discussion with ideas submitted earnestly and rebutted respectfully.

I'd further urge anyone who is offended to go back and read the offending posts again. I think you'll see that nobody is asserting anything inflammatory. There might be ideas that you don't agree with, but that's a natural part of a robust discussion. Put on your black turtleneck and join the fun!
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Postby Spots » June 16th, 2011, 1:07 am

Nobody should apologize. This is ridiculous. People don't jump out in real life and tell you that your conversation isn't actually a conversation.


If you don't like the things I talk about, ignore them. It's a simple process.
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Postby Brad Hawkins » June 16th, 2011, 3:41 am

Spots wrote:Nobody should apologize. This is ridiculous. People don't jump out in real life and tell you that your conversation isn't actually a conversation.

Not since I stopped doing acid, no.
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Postby bradisntclever » June 16th, 2011, 8:58 am

Spots wrote:Nobody should apologize. This is ridiculous. People don't jump out in real life and tell you that your conversation isn't actually a conversation.


I didn't say it's not a conversation. I said it's not a relevant conversation. Big difference. The topic is women in improv. Please try to keep the conversation on topic. If you'd like to discuss this rabbit hole further, feel free to start a new thread. If you'd like to talk about, I don't know, women in improv, go for it here.
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Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » June 16th, 2011, 10:03 am

i really don't think it's strayed that much either...i know i've tried to show how the larger philosophical minority issues we're discussing are relavent TO women in improv. i think that majority/minority dynamic is an underlying foundation to a lot of the situations and attitudes Kat brought up in her first post.

so, yes, tangents...but tangents that feed back into the main topic.

(though now we have a tangent ABOUT the tangents, which will only feedback on itself and suck us all into a fucking wormhole.)

Jastroch wrote:*** Anyone want to join the White Dick Monsters?


i'm in. :P
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Postby bradisntclever » June 16th, 2011, 10:14 am

Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell wrote:i really don't think it's strayed that much either...i know i've tried to show how the larger philosophical minority issues we're discussing are relavent TO women in improv. i think that majority/minority dynamic is an underlying foundation to a lot of the situations and attitudes Kat brought up in her first post.

so, yes, tangents...but tangents that feed back into the main topic.

(though now we have a tangent ABOUT the tangents, which will only feedback on itself and suck us all into a fucking wormhole.)

Jastroch wrote:*** Anyone want to join the White Dick Monsters?


i'm in. :P


It was less one giant tangent, and more a seemingly endless sea of hypotheticals (some with points, some humorous, and more), of which I replied to the most recent one at that time. There's semantics, and then there's pointless semantics. A little bit of both led to a thread hijack. Getting bogged down in a discussion of hypotheticals that aren't, after a few permutations, extremely relevant to the source topic, tends to marginalize the topic. Just look at the last few pages of this thread - it's been effectively killed.
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Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » June 16th, 2011, 10:21 am

all right, i disagree with that, but so be it...;)
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Postby thedward » June 16th, 2011, 10:35 am

Brad Hawkins wrote:Not since I stopped doing acid, no.


I knew there was something different about you the past couple weeks!
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Postby Katherine » June 16th, 2011, 2:13 pm

Hi Everyone,
So, even though I started this thread, I've been pretty silent throughout the discussion. That is mostly due to the fact that my computer was out of commission. That meant that, any time I wanted to respond, I had to do so on my phone or on the world's smallest netbook. This put my eyes and fingers through some undue torture. My computer is back, so I'm able to join the discussion.

The thread has taken a turn for the semantics, mental masturbation route, but it seems some folks aren't bothered by that. For my part, I've taken to skimming through the posts until I find something less hypothetical / “semantical.” I'm not here to chop that discussion off at the knees, but I am glad Brad and others have pointed out that the conversation has shifted. Maybe the semantics discussion is one for a different thread.

Several people offered insightful responses to my original questions, especially those that concerned navigating misogynistic endowments, and figuring out how to endow yourself with a character you like (Again, my original question had to do not only with OTHERS endowing ME, but with ME endowing MYSELF with some characteristics that, had I been more relaxed on stage, I may not have given myself. The instinct to do that is probably cultural; in moments where “we're supposed to be funny, dammit,” if we're not confident with ourselves, it is easy to endow ourselves with sit-com style, stock characteristics. Mindfulness and more stage time are the remedy.)

Some of the issues that didn't get as much attention were the following:

Katherine wrote:-Different sensibilities of women and men on stage / in the audience
-Balance/shift of "power" in troupes based on gender
-More/less/different baggage that women and men bring to the stage
-Audience response to ...young, cute female improvisor / not as young or cute female improvisor / male improvisors
-Other improvisors' responses to ...young, cute female improvisor / not as young or cute female improvisor / male improvisors



**Do women and men tend to have different sensibilities on stage and in the audience? Do particular tenants of improv come more naturally to one gender than to another? Does one gender tend to do some particular type of scene work more naturally and with less practice? Teachers, do you see trends in your students? In other words, do your female and male students tend to need direction or coaching in different areas?

**In troupes, is balance of power even an issue? Do you have experience with troupes where the balance of power or the nature of the work you did was a result of gender differences? What about in improv class? Is the feel of a majority male class different than a majority female one?

I'm a high school teacher, and I find that gender influences my classes in all sorts of ways.
(EXTREME TANGENT ABOUT THIS STATEMENT: One of the most frustrating things that I've seen in high school settings (and I admit, I used to do this!) is when a teacher breaks up the boisterous, off-task boys by placing a diligent, quiet student – usually a girl - in between them as if it won't affect her own concentration or learning. I stopped doing this when I realized what an unfair thing that was. Now, I see something equally disturbing in classes. Generally, it is my boys who come unprepared for class: no pencil, no paper, no textbook, etc. I have seen time and time and time and time again a girl “take care” of the “boys-will-be-boys” boy in this “nurturing, motherly” manner. She sighs with slight disapproval but with a knowing smile, passes him a pencil and says, “You can keep it for today.” ...And from that interaction, she feels like she's won some sort of recognition in his eyes, and that he'll now pay more attention to her. I have seen time and time and time and time again, girls offering to call or text boys to remind them of their homework, to organize their backpacks, to color code their folders, and so on. One boy – and he is a great kid, if irresponsible - “hires” underclassmen girls to be his secretaries. They keep track of his activities, update his google calendar and set text message alerts to go off and remind him of various events. I've even had girls offer themselves up as the martyr who suggests that these two boys would pay more attention if she could sit between them and keep them on track. FOR FUCK'S SAKE!!!! In years past I would simply grit my teeth with all the kind “helping” and simply tell the girl who offered to move herself between two boys, “That's nice of you, but no thanks.” This year I took a decidedly, openly, loudly feminist stance against this bullshit, and it really got results. I reminded kids that they don't need to act out a scene from The Simpsons. The girls don't need to be responsible, competent, mildly disapproving yet nurturing Marge, and the boys don't need to be some bumbling, oafish Homer who can barely figure out how to put his own pants on. Ok, tangent over. ( : )

**Have you seen improvisers and audiences respond differently or more or less favorably to young or cute improvisors? Do older, less cute imps need to compensate for their age and looks? Do women imps, in particular, have a harder time if they are older or not as cute? Have you seen some imps (of any gender) get a “pass” based on age / cuteness? Does age matter in improv, and does it matter differently for women and men?

In the wider world of acting, I know this is a problem. Women ae expected to stay younger longer, while men get to grow more dignified as they grow older. Speaking of which, George Clooney and Tom Ford can pose on magazine covers (interestingly, magazines for women!) with women who are young enough to be their daughters, but dammit, when the hell will Oprah get to take a sensual, intimate photo with Lil Wayne? And yeah, I sort of want to see Glen Close get some Justin Beiber action, y'all!!

George C. and his lady friend: http://www.popsugar.com/gallery/5359?page=0,0,0
Tom F. and his lady friends: http://www.posh24.com/photo/311530/whic ... zine_cover
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Postby jillybee72 » June 16th, 2011, 2:51 pm

In troupes, is balance of power even an issue? Do you have experience with troupes where the balance of power or the nature of the work you did was a result of gender differences? What about in improv class? Is the feel of a majority male class different than a majority female one?


Yes, you see a more masculine sensibility in groups with more men, it just happens. The type of scenes they choose to do shift. However there are so many great exceptions to this rule - Death By Roo Roo, Mission Improvable, Dasariski, for a small sample.

When I cast a student team I try to get a lot of women on it, because it's rough being the only woman or one of two women on a *student* team. Your voice may be overpowered.


Have you seen improvisers and audiences respond differently or more or less favorably to young or cute improvisors? Do older, less cute imps need to compensate for their age and looks? Do women imps, in particular, have a harder time if they are older or not as cute? Have you seen some imps (of any gender) get a “pass” based on age / cuteness? Does age matter in improv, and does it matter differently for women and men?


ComedySportz-Twin Cities audiences have always given a free pass to young cute guys, while the rest of us have to work for it. I don't mind, I like working for it. Bear in mind the audiences are younger, I think older audiences are more evenhanded, but that's not a scientific measure by any means.
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Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » June 16th, 2011, 2:54 pm

Katherine wrote:**Do women and men tend to have different sensibilities on stage and in the audience? Do particular tenants of improv come more naturally to one gender than to another? Does one gender tend to do some particular type of scene work more naturally and with less practice? Teachers, do you see trends in your students? In other words, do your female and male students tend to need direction or coaching in different areas?


i addressed this a little bit.

Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell wrote:men bring their baggage to the stage. women bring their baggage to the stage. every individual brings their individual baggage to the stage. wonderful. we get to explore and communicate with each other. what a fantastic GIFT that is!


beyond that, i think i was discussing a couple of months ago with Brad over pints at Crown and Anchor the rising population of young women in Austin improv who seem to show a natural affinity and prodigious talent for improv, especially the ability to do grounded and emotionally resonant work (whether funny or not). my observation was that since women, generally speaking, have a greater tendency for empathy they're able to connect emotionally with themselves, their scene partners and audiences very naturally. at the same time, much of the social pressure on women to always look and behave in a certain manner and never to look foolish (my theory on why many women don't TRY to be funny or make themselves vulnerable doing improv) has lessened or at the very least has become more acknowledged so the younger students feel less of a stigma going to those places than perhaps older female students who still have that conditioned into them.

male improv students and younger male improvisors, on the other hand, have no problem looking foolish and will often be very funny and feel like they're excelling...but we're conditioned with a sense of ultra-competitiveness, especially around other men and ESPECIALLY in the presence of women. so it becomes about being the best, being the funniest, being the alpha male improvisor (not just an affliction of the younger and less experienced...look at any "bit off" between a group of male improvisors and ask yourself what they're actually trying to prove there. :p ). men can look foolish, but it's often a mask and it's very difficult to remove it and access genuine vulnerability and emotional truth because, in our conditioning, that's a sign of "weakness." so as classes advance and it becomes less about playing and clowning around and laughing and more about connection and collaboration and NOT being clever...i think you see more attrition of young male improv students who aren't prepared to deal with that and perhaps feel admonished for trying to be funny. oddly, you then start to see the more shy male students who've been outshined start to blossom and take risks and connect to some amazing energies, as well as the more secure, daring or patient males who were "funny" before take that same risk of exploring new territory.

as for troupe dynamics...it's tough to speak on objectively for me. but i started out in a male dominated troupe where there were definitely some voices trying to drown out the female minority (if you'll pardon me for using such a mentally masturbatory word. :P ). most troupes i've been in since then have been fairly equal gender wise, and i find i connect with female improvisors more easily than males so i like having a lot of girls in a troupe.

take all that for what you will.

and slight semantic digression (because words are IMPORTANT)...it's tenets, not tenants. i'll go back to my nerd corner now. :?
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Postby Katherine » June 16th, 2011, 4:11 pm

Yup..... tenets. I FAILED!!! (failure bow) I've bumbled this one before, which is, of course, why I teach English. ( :
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Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » June 16th, 2011, 4:23 pm

and not Tennants at all. ;)

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Postby Jastroch » June 16th, 2011, 4:35 pm

Katherine wrote:**Have you seen improvisers and audiences respond differently or more or less favorably to young or cute improvisors? Do older, less cute imps need to compensate for their age and looks? Do women imps, in particular, have a harder time if they are older or not as cute? Have you seen some imps (of any gender) get a “pass” based on age / cuteness? Does age matter in improv, and does it matter differently for women and men?


There is a sentiment that I've heard expressed by a number of experienced female improvisers about young, cute female improvisers -- that they should make an effort to dress in a manor that's more demur, not revealing and asexual because it's a distraction to the audiences.

I actually had one blurt, "Can you make a no skin rule?" I was uncomfortable with that for fear that I'd sound sexist.

I think a large part of comedy is about being okay with being ugly, so if you're hyper cognizant of your appearance or sexuality, it can hinder your ability to project ugliness on to the audience.

Maybe in that sense, older women have it easier in improv.
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