Last night, I played again with my friend Brendon at Open Source Improv. It was our second show. We were all warmed up, the logistics were taken care of, I was feeling relaxed and ready ...
Until 3 of my students walked in the door.
Then I got anxious.
Every week or two, Jimmy Carrane posts a talk show podcast called Improv Nerd, which I highly recommend. His guests are talented improvisers who have some connection to Chicago's improv scene. In the dozen or so episodes I've listened to I've noticed a trend:
It doesn't matter how many Second City Mainstage shows they've done, how many i.O. classes they've taught, even how many seasons they performed on Saturday Night Live. They say that they're afraid of being found out as frauds.
This seems especially true of improv teachers. When I took classes at i.O, a few of my teachers would encourage students to come to their shows, then quickly admit that having students in the audience freaked them out. If they just taught a 3-hour class on environment, then their show better have a rich environment. If it doesn't, their students might call them on it. Or worse, their students might lose respect for them.
I think that's where my anxiety was coming from last night. It helped that I'd heard so many players I admire come on Improv Nerd and name that feeling. Naming the fear drained some of its power. That gave me enough distance harness that fear as energy instead of letting anxiety win the day.
I felt better about this show than about the last show, partly because the students were there to scare me.* I think I play better when I'm scared but don't let the fear win.
*I do not think they were there for the purpose of scaring me. That was just a side effect.