In the past two months we have driven roughly 7,000 miles through 15 states, performed in Canada, and been a part of over twenty shows in the Western half of North America.
Why we did it
When we started Glassworks Improv we had no intention of touring. We were three guys who had played on a team in high school together and loved it. So why not just keep doing that? We decided to build a theatre in our basement for shows, and play around our hometown of Eau Claire, Wisconsin. As we played more and more shows in Eau Claire, we started to feel how special this experience could be. If we were going to be on a team, why not take that idea, that partnership, as far as it could go? If we truly wanted to take ourselves seriously we knew we had to play more shows. As playing every night in a mid-size city isn’t exactly practical, we hit the road. The idea of playing to a completely different group of people every show was very appealing to us. Audiences wouldn’t have history with us to fall back on if we weren’t living up to our full potential on stage. They would have to take us for exactly what we were in that moment. We wanted to be put in situations where we had to follow the fear. Comfort is a great thing, and something that all improvisers strive for. But to get to that place of being comfortable in our team skin, we had to make the shows less comfortable, so we would be forced to break new ground every night and find our team’s identity. Now that that has happened, we can show the audience a better show the next time we are in their city.
Why it worked
Travelling usually costs a lot, and getting off of work without quitting can be nearly impossible. Well, none of us are in school (which means no debt, more time for improv) and we all took a leave of absence from our random day jobs at home. During the summer we had several shows and saved that cash in a group account. We calculated how much the trip would cost and at first it seemed that we would all have to scrape together every last dollar we could find, but then we checked our team account and discovered that our only personal expense would be food! That made the entire trip feasible financially.
Gas was covered by our summer shows, food was at our own expense, but what about lodging? Well, we were able to crash in a home (not a hotel) in just about every city we went to. When you combine friends, extended family, and improvisers that you meet along the way, we can guarantee that you’ll be able to sleep for free. Seriously, you should try contacting your grandparents’ siblings’ friends and see where they live; we did. We slept in the car a few nights, but it was manageable and expected.
Here’s another key item that made the trip effortless: technology. Most of us nowadays have a smartphone, and every smartphone has a map that can be accessed anywhere (except Canada). It makes travelling ridiculously easy! It seems like only a few years ago that we had to go online and print out every map with directions, but now we have a map of the world in our hands.
What this can do for the improv community
Now we know how easy it is to connect with improvisers literally ACROSS the nation and boy does it warm our hearts. Our team connected with several incredible improvisers and met people from NIN in reality like Nick Armstrong all the way in Los Angeles. We don’t think that a trip like this would have been possible a few years ago, but now it’s as simple as choosing a location and setting up a show. There’s an improv theater (if not several) in every big city so contact them and then find a way to get there. Just imagine what it would be like if every team travelled. Theaters could have more shows each week with fresh talent from around the country. Also, our couch surfing network would be huge! Every team should travel and every team deserves to perform in front of a fresh audience.
The entire community has grown substantially in the last few years and it’s not going to stop here. With this next generation of improvisers we can expect the entire scene to grow leaps and bounds, excelling the art and evolving improvisation in ways we can only imagine. Del has said that, “One day Charna and I will wake up and see that the old way we used to teach is archaic and outdated. It’s advancing and developing so rapidly that the only way to allow it to survive and thrive is for Charna and I to step aside and let the new guard lead it past the next threshold.” Well, that new guard is all of us and together we can grow improvisation into something truly beautiful.
Find your free time, save up money from shows, and GO! Hey, if you want to do a show in Eau Claire, WI then please contact us! Stay at our house and we can help you set up a show. Feel free to ask about our travels or inquire about getting your own team started with travelling the country. If you want to read about our travels, check out http://www.glassworksimprov.com/blog. We look forward to hearing from some of you!
Glassworks Improv (Mack Hastings, Elliot Heinz, Alex Raney)