We’ve Only Just Begun

My Groundlings family
My Groundlings family

In the first half of class on Monday we do an exercise called, New Choice. It starts as a normal three person scene, but at any time after a line is said, Jay can say, “New choice.” Ex: I could say, I like your hat. “New choice.” I like your hair. “New choice.” I like you. “Total new choice.” When he says this, you have to say something completely different from what you’ve already said. “I have diabetes.” When Jay stops, you have to continue the scene based on the last line said. So you can’t ignore that you’re scene partner just said he has diabetes. You have to acknowledge it and justify it. Get it? Well, I think this will be fun. Of course I suck at it. I can’t think of things to say fast enough (even coming up with an example, it was difficult for me to think of things.) So I stutter and stumble and Jay yells at me to spit it out. I know that a huge part of this is that fear of saying the wrong thing and looking stupid. Still working on that.

In the second half of class we do an exercise working with emotion. This one is a little more difficult to explain. There are four people on stage. Person A and Person B start a scene on the side of the stage. It’s just a normal scene, but at some point one of them has to get really big emotionally. While there are many emotions, most people tend to go towards some form of anger. And then the opposite of that which is sadness or sorrow. Let’s say Person A “reaches a 10,” emotionally. He finds an excuse to leave the scene and steps to the middle of the stage, where he will continue to rant about what just happened and deliver this to the fourth wall (the fourth wall is the space in front of the stage, so Person A is facing the audience). This is when Jay stands up and gets in his face to instigate him further in his emotion. At this point, it’s not about the scene Person A was just in, it’s all about his emotion. Jay does different things, like has him go mute but still be big emotionally, or has him continue ranting without words, or has him speak Russian, or tells him there’s a girl standing in front of him at the bar and he has to ask her out – in that emotion of course. Which can get silly. Once Jay is satisfied, and Person A is still at this peak of emotion, he lets him walk into the next scene with Person C. At this time, Person C is doing space work. Person A has no time to think. He has to come into the scene, see the space work, and have the first line out, in that emotion. Then those two have a scene, and Person A has to calm down while Person C gets big emotionally, and then Person C steps to the middle of the stage. And so on.

I am scared to death of this exercise. Jay has already told me that I don’t get big enough emotionally (just add it to the list of things I need to work on). The first group goes, and it doesn’t make me feel any better. Only more nervous. And, everyone in the first group did some form of anger, so I feel like I can’t get angry now. And now I’m yelling at myself because I can’t plan what emotion I’m going to have. God dammit.

So I end up being Person C on the stage. Stacy and Matt go first, and Stacy ends up flipping out and leaving the scene. I’m watching her rant and it’s hilarious. She is so funny. I can’t follow that! But I am happy she’s going to be in the next scene with me, because she’s awesome. So she storms over and I’m hammering something into the wall. I have to say, this exercise is pretty amazing, because when she comes in so mad and yells at me for “hammering the Christmas tree to the wall again” it makes it sooooo easy to react and respond and get the scene going. I end up being this sad and pathetic person and she is my roommate and only friend, but then she tells me she hates me, so I continue to be more and more pathetic.

Jay!
Jay Lay!

I end up leaving the scene and I’m not exactly sure if this counts as an emotion, but Jay lets me go with it. I don’t really have the opportunity to be nervous for this whole monologue thing because I’m sort of whining/crying about having no friends and being really ugly. When Jay asks me questions, it’s so easy to respond as this person. Like, I really don’t have to think that much. I’m just so sad and pathetic. And it’s actually really fun. Finally, Jay lets me go into the next scene with Teddy. He’s obviously crouching down and making a fire or something like that. I crouch down next to him, crying-ish, and say something like, I’m afraid of fire, Bob! (I can’t remember what I said exactly but I know I tried to throw his name in there to get the “who” out. And so I calm down and know that my role is now to instigate Teddy in whatever emotion he’s leaning towards. He gets really mad at me! So I amp up the diva-ness and complain about our “camping trip” and tell him he’s a bad boyfriend and so forth. Again, his huge emotion makes it so easy to move the scene along. He finally gets so mad at me and leaves the scene, and I’m happy with that exercise. I was dreading it and actually had fun!

Thursday is our last day of class. I can’t believe we’re finished already. Jay has us go up and do two-person scenes. He just wants to have fun and watch us today. Still on the last day of class, I’m nervous, especially now because he wants to see how much we’ve improved and I can’t handle the pressure. I know, I’m ridiculous. But I get up there and do a couple scenes and I’ll say it, I’m somewhat happy with how I do. (That is, of course, until the end of class when we get up on stage and each have to be a character in a circus and I get embarrassed just thinking about it now.)

Jay also has us do what I call, the circle of love, where we stand in a circle and one person goes in the middle, and we go around and everyone says what they like about that person. This was unexpected. I feel super awkward walking into the middle but also curious to know how other people think of me in improv. Everyone is really nice. I can’t remember it all but there was a lot of courageous and brave and fearless and noticing how much I’ve improved since Day 1. I could cry. I think of myself as fearful, not fearless. It’s nice to have my class be so supportive. I feel like I’m just starting to get better and we’ve really began to work well together and now it’s over and I have to be with a new class. It’s like starting over again.

After class we have our 3-minute individual evaluation from Jay, where he tells us whether we can move forward to intermediate or repeat basic. He has talked to us as a group warning us that most people will repeat and that it’s not a bad thing. He says intermediate isn’t as fun – it gets more serious. He asks if any of us really care that much about being in intermediate. No one says anything, even though there are definitely at least a few people who do care. And then Matt chimes in. “Well, I want to move forward.” He laughs his big, nervous laugh. “I don’t know about you guys but $500 is a lot of money.” More laughter. I can’t even explain to you how ridiculous this statement is. Matt, there is no way in hell that you’re moving forward. You don’t know how to do improv, you don’t follow the rules, you don’t have characters…I mean, that’s just scraping the surface. My hands actually go to my face when he says this. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a super sweet kid, but he’s on another planet.

Caroline and Dee
Caroline and Dee

I wait until the end to go in for my meeting. Jay chats me up and tells me he likes my jacket. “Is that new? I like that color, I could never wear that color.” I didn’t realize this then, but he actually maybe, felt bad telling me I wasn’t moving forward? Which is crazy. I know I’m not ready to move forward. He tells me like he’s nervous how I’m going to respond. I immediately agree with him and he relaxes. I guess he’s had many people not react well when he tells them that they’re repeating basic. “I saw glimpses of you letting go and having fun, but you just need to go for it more. You’re smart, you get it, but sometimes I would see you sort of waiting for other people to speak first or not sure about what you were saying.” Yea, I know. “Did you think there were people in this class that were better than you?” Oh yea, absolutely. “Yea, that’s the problem.” Oh, he got me. Trick question. I’m just really scared up there. “What’s the worst that can happen?” I don’t know, I say something stupid and look like an idiot. “You’re not going to look like an idiot. We’re all rooting for you. We’re going to be supportive no matter what you do.” It’s like I know these things, but it’s still good to hear it. I say bye to Jay. “Are you coming tonight?” I sure am! There’s a teacher show tonight and Jay and Guy are both performing in it. A bunch of us from class are going. Jay has been telling us that it was cancelled or he wasn’t doing it, but we knew he was lying! He keeps saying he’s rusty and doesn’t want to do it. Jay, are you nervous?? “Oh yea, incredibly.” Good, it’s nice to see him nervous.

It’s already 4pm and the show is at 10pm so Caroline and I hang out until the show. She’s hilarious (and moving forward to intermediate – unsurprising). We head over to The Grove so she can do some Christmas shopping and ends up buying herself shorts and a dress. Because that’s what happens when you go Christmas shopping. Ryan meets us and we had over to Umami Burger for dinner. Hanna works there, so she seats us and hangs out when she can. We all talk about class and who’s moving forward and who isn’t. Now we’re friends so some of our real opinions come out. It’s fun. Ryan leaves because he has to catch a flight in the morning and Caroline and I spend the rest of our time in Barnes & Noble, trying to pick out books for her little nephew. I could spend hours in this place. “Have you read this book?” It’s some bedtime story with two bears on the cover. No. “Oh my God. I’m going to read it to you right now.” And she does. Page by page, showing me the pictures like she’s reading me to sleep. It’s normal.

At 8 we head over to The Dark Room – a bar across the street from Groundlings. We’re the first to arrive so we each get a glass of wine while we wait for some of our classmates to meet us. By this time, I feel like I know Caroline. We’ve talked all about boys and life and, well that’s pretty much all there is, right? People start to filter in and we get a nice little buzz before the show. I love seeing Jay on stage. It’s so nice to be in his seat for once. By the way, he is so full of it. He’s not rusty at all. He’s so freakin’ funny. So is Guy. They’re both hilarious and so much fun to watch. There’s only about seven actors or so. Jay and Guy are my favorites to watch of course. They’re the funniest. I may be partial.

After the show we wait for Jay to come out. We are totally groupies right now. He walks out and talks to some people. I yell his name like three times. Hi! We’re over here! I’m so obnoxious. He says thanks for coming and all that, and makes sure we all have someone to walk with to our cars. After all, we’re in West Hollywood. God, no, I do not have a crush on Jay Lay. Don’t be ridiculous.

*The Carpenters

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