Fall with Grace

In September of 2016, I took over as Artistic Director of M.I.’s Westside Comedy Theater in Santa Monica, California. And in the months I’ve been there I learned an important lesson, probably one of the most important ones an artist should learn… It’s just as important to fall with grace as it is to get the part. It’s all about being a professional.

In my time as AD so far I’ve had to make some very tough decisions on the infrastructure of house teams and personnel at the theater and I had to do the hardest job any AD ever has to do. To cut teams and to restructure things. Now to give you some insight on what an AD goes through to make a hard decision like this. Here are some things AD’s do and think about to make this hard decision:

  1. Watch as many shows as possible and take notes, not just on the team but the individuals on it. Study them.
  2. Before cutting them give them the opportunity to grow by giving them or their coaches notes to help guide the team.
  3. Is the team progressing artistically as an ensemble?
  4. Are the individuals progressing with this ensemble or are they being hindered by the ensemble?
  5. Is the show bringing a consistent house? – Yes we have to think about this as we also have to keep the business afloat.
    1. More times then not, if it’s not bringing a house it’s a team that’s not doing a great job.
  6. Is there commitment to the team?
    1. Players showing up is consistent in rehearsal and the show
    2. Coach showing up
    3. Consistency in rehearsal
  7. Do they care? Is there passion?

Now I’m sure I am missing some, and I’d love for AD’s to chime in if they read this, but going back to my point…It’s just as important to fall with grace as it is to get the part. This is huge to me. Getting a slot as a player on a MainStage team is huge. Congrats, you’ve gone through some good filter to get there. Now that you’re on the team it’s a commitment and you have to really show up for that commitment. We watch for this and it’s the professional thing to do. You auditioned, took a spot someone else might have got and you have to represent not only yourself but the theater. Now, when you get cut from a team or your team gets cut, fall with grace. I’ve cut teams in the past, or made students repeat classes and have received a ton of e-mails thanking me for the opportunity to perform or take a class. But some e-mails I’ve received are down right nasty and/or just unprofessional. It really irks me to see this happen. I take this into account going forward with anyone. I am a forgiving person, but watching someone handle themselves in a professional way, goes a long way. That’s someone I see making it, or becoming a stronger performer. Performers that take things for granted is not my cup of tea.

When you get cut or leave a team, get held back in class an AD has taken great care in their decision. The question you should be asking yourself when you get cut is, “How can I get better as an artist?” This should be the e-mail you send to the AD. More then likely they will be armed and ready to help you succeed.


Nick ArmstrongNick is an Actor, Improvisor and Writer living in Los Angeles, CA. He is the Camp Director and Founder of Camp Improv Utopia a a 501(c) (3) Non Profit improv retreat for grown ups, Artistic Director of Mi’s Westside Comedy Theater and is a founding members of the The Improv Network. Nick has also taught at iO West, The Pack Theatre and The Groundlings and has taught workshops all over the world.
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