This episode is dedicated to Scott Sedita, whose 10 minute meeting in his studio has propelled me into the adventure of a lifetime. I thank him from the bottom of my heart.
I’m way ahead of you by now, so I’m going to try to catch you up, but before I do, I have to go back and fill in some blanks, for those of you who haven’t been keeping up with your reading and for some of the things I promised I would tell you about, but haven’t yet.
About the Dog Thing at Scott’s Studio.
First let me tell you a little bit more about myself, because in my Universe, there is no such thing as too much information.
I know I already mentioned that, to me, every place is either a set or a location, so I always feel comfortable every place I go. Even, as I have mentioned before, in Scott’s Chair in Scott’s Office.
The second thing you should know is that there are really only two signs that I automatically react to, without thinking and without question. The first is a Stop Sign. I stop at Stop Signs in the dead of night with no other headlights around for miles. And it’s a full stop, not those California Rolling Stops. I stop as if my life depends upon it, because it does. My High School Driver’s Ed Teacher made that very clear, and the lesson, unlike so many others, stuck.
The second sign, is a Hot Set sign. A Hot Set sign is placed around a roped off set that must be left exactly as it is. I will never enter a roped off set that is marked Hot. Ever. Because my life also depends upon it.
Which leaves everything else open for interpretation by me.
So when I was leaving Scott’s Studio after our 10 minute meeting, I remembered and reminded him about the brand new book that he offered me and that subsequently went flying across my living room into my kitchen, and not under its own steam.
He went into his office to retrieve it and there on the door was a sign that said something like “Do Not Open” or “Do Not Come In” or something like that. I wasn’t really sure because I just kind of noticed it and since it didn’t say either “STOP” or “HOT SET”, I opened the door.
That’s when two of the cutest, fluffiest little white dogs came flying out, barking and jumping, followed by Scott, with a scowl on his face and his book in his hand, which I am pretty sure he wanted to fling at me for opening the door. Some moments of mayhem ensued while dogs were calmed and corralled and returned to the inner office, a place where I am sure I will never be invited to enter. Or his studio, a place, which I am even more sure, I will never be invited back.
So now with the Dog Thing and The Chair Thing, I’m pretty sure Scott Sedita is pretty much done with me, High School friends or not. But I’m not done with him. Yet.
I still had to go to The Groundling class he had suggested that I, along with the 2 or 3 million other aspiring actors who had read his book, attend. Even if I didn’t want to. And I didn’t.
And as with everything else, there were many reasons, most of which you should have read about by now, because I am a very simple person and tend to run on the same patterns. But if you can’t remember, here are some of the reasons.
- I hate Improv. I hate watching it because it is rarely funny and I hate participating in it because it is too much work.
- I hate driving anywhere more than 30 minutes. 45 if there is money involved. Money that I will receive.
- I was supposed to move the very same day as the class.
So I was going to forgo the class and forfeit the $36 dollars I had paid through The Groundling website until I thought about my options.
I really had none.
I could have stayed home, in the Little House From Hell, packing the few last things that I hadn’t repacked a week after I had moved into the Little House From Hell and waited for the movers to show up and get me the hell out of The Little House From Hell.
And although that would have gotten me out of The Little House From Hell a little quicker, it wouldn’t have gotten me any closer to getting back to the Home I had in My Heart.
So even though I had some doubts about the advice Scott had given me, personally – and many, many, many other actors additionally, The Wizard had spoken and I was going to listen.
I called the movers and rescheduled for Sunday, the day after The Groundling class.
And on that Saturday, I went. I mean, after all, it was just a class. An Intro class. A 36 dollar Intro Class. I was sure that we would be sitting in some uncomfortable folding chairs, maybe on some risers, and the Instructor would introduce himself and maybe some other Improv actors and they would show us some examples of Improv and then explain some of the rules of Improv and then maybe ask one or two of us up to participate. And as long as I didn’t raise my hand, which I wasn’t going to, all would be well. At least I would get to watch Professional Improv Actors work, so it might actually be funny. Maybe.
So I got in the car and plugged in the address of The Groundlings and drove the 16 mile, 34 minute route and found a parking spot and parked and got out of the car and locked the door and fumbled through my purse for my wallet then rifled through my wallet for a credit card and plugged it into the parking meter and figured out how to add 2 hours to the parking time and put my credit card back in my wallet and put my wallet back in my purse and walked to the front door of The Groundling Theater and opened the door and wandered around wondering where I was supposed to go and what I was supposed to do and then just finally sat on a bench and looked around and hoped that someone would appear and tell me where I was supposed to go and what I was supposed to do.
I was already exhausted.
While I was sitting, I saw that the theater had been dedicated to Phil Hartman.
I thought about that whole thing that happened, that was so shocking and had made so much news.
Now I was exhausted and sad.
Then a bunch of actors came out of the theater, holding a few pages of scripts in their hands. They broke into groups and scattered themselves around the lobby and started rehearsing or acting or something.
I wasn’t sure if this was part of the Intro Class, but I listened for a while because I had no other choice because I was siting in the lobby and had already paid for the class and the parking.
And had gotten to early. As I might have mentioned before, and I’m pretty sure I did, I am always early for everything. It really has become a bad habit. So I watched those other actors for quite some time.
Now I was exhausted, sad and confused.
Eventually someone showed up and put up a sign-in sheet for The Intro class and since none of the other actors in the Lobby stopped reading, or rehearsing, or acting to sign up, I realized that they were not part of my class, which brightened my spirits a bit because, and I know I shouldn’t say this but I am going to, they really weren’t very good so they just reinforced everything I had already thought about Improv. So I signed in and pretty soon other people started to come into the lobby and signed in, too.
We also had to fill out and put on stick-on badges.
I hate those. Nothing makes me feel more self-conscious than those peel and stick badges. For a number of reasons, which I will tell you about at a later date. Usually I just make up some name to put on my badge, but this time I panicked and put my own name on in Black Sharpie, so if I changed it, it would have looked really weird.
Then someone else showed up and corralled us into group and marched us across the street to a very nice building with a very large sign. Which was comforting because I think I would have just gotten more depressed sitting in the Phil Hartman Theater. Especially if those other actors were there. I had seen their rehearsals with scripts in hand. I couldn’t even imagine what those performances would have disintegrated into without them.
There was about maybe 15 of us. None of the other students were over 21. Maybe 22. Certainly not 23, except the Instructor, who looked about 35. That’s still 25 years younger than I. His name was Henry Watkins and he was boyish and charming and looked somewhat like the photo I had to find on the website to find his name, which I had forgotten.
We sat in uncomfortable stacking chairs in rows in a smallish room with gray carpeting and one window. I mention the carpeting only because much to my surprise, Henry made us sit on it. In a circle.
And at that moment, I knew everything I thought about this class was wrong.
I realized in that instant, that there would be no other actor/teachers coming in to show us what Improv was all about. No one to explain the rules. No one to put on a show. There would be no few students participating.
We all would be participating.
Whether we raised our hands or not.
And that’s when I remembered what I had decided in the Tiny Trailer before I moved into what would quickly become The Little House From Hell.
That I was going to be happy, no matter what.
And the quickest way to be happy, was to make everything fun.
Whether it was or not.
So I sat in the circle and pretended I was an Indian Princess, which Pleased The Crown, and I imagined that I was in a forest with magical birds that sang Disney Inspired Songs and critters that did my laundry and prepared dinner when I was hungry.
Those thoughts made me happy.
Then I realized that everyone in the circle was looking at me.
As if I was supposed to say something to them. Perhaps something profound.
Confused, I shot a glance at Henry, our instructor.
He asked me simply, “What’s your name and why have you come here?”
I panicked. At that point my brain switched from my Pocahontas daydream to something more like this.
I stuttered out my name and then said the first thing that came into my head.
“Scott Sedita bet me a hundred dollars I wouldn’t take the class.”
The rest of the class laughed.
I sighed with relief.
My work here was done.
I had said something that was not exactly true and that had made people laugh.
Henry asked me where Scott was and I told him he was waiting in the car outside the building. With the motor running.
And everyone laughed again.
So in my mind, class was over.
Which gave me the opportunity to stop worrying, start having more fun and try to make as many people laugh as I could.
Because that is what comedy, if not improv, is all about.
Henry did teach us a bunch of stuff, most of which I have forgotten, except for an exercise where you have to toss an imaginary ball to any one in the circle, remember who you tossed it to, remember who tossed it to you and remember what color the ball was and call out that color.
The first imaginary ball started out red.
That was pretty easy. Even I, who hate sports, could toss an imaginary red ball.
Then Henry tossed a second imaginary blue ball into the circle.
So now you had to keep track of both the red ball, and who you tossed it to and who tossed it to you but also the second blue ball and who you tossed it to and who tossed it to you.
At the same time.
The imaginary balls were dropped any number of times, but the whole class eventually got the hang of it and the imaginary balls were soon flying back and forth around the circle with speed and glee.
It was kind of fun and I was beginning to enjoy myself even more and the thoughts I had of hating Improv had begun to soften, and I thought to myself that maybe Scott Sedita was right after all. Maybe there was a place for me in Improv. Maybe this would be the first step on the road through the Haunted Forest to get the Broomstick of The Witch Of The West and bring it back to the Wizard, who would then help me get back to the Home in My Heart.
Or at least not kick me out of his studio while instructing his Assistants to call 911.
And then Henry did the unthinkable.
He threw a Yellow Ball into the mix.
And that’s when I realized that I really, really hated Improv.
And I hated Henry.
And I especially hated Scott Sedita, who was not sitting in his car by the curb with the motor running, waiting for me to come running out of the class, which, at that point, was what I, with every fibre of my being, wanted to do.
I had no idea where Scott Sedita was, but wherever he was, I knew he was laughing at me, for sitting in his chair, for opening the door that let out his fluffy white dogs and for arriving on his doorstep to ask him for advice to begin with.
So now we, and by that I mean the 15 other people who had 21-year-old synapses in their brains and me, who had 60-year-old synapses, which is to say, 3 synapses that were hanging on for dear life and 1 synapse that was instructing me in very firm tones to run, run out of the room with the gray carpeting and uncomfortable stacking chairs that we were no longer sitting on, down the stairs, out the door, across the street to where my car sat with 1 hour and a half left on a 2 hour pre-paid meter, were now trying to toss and remember 3 imaginary colored balls to people we had barely met, except for those stupid, stupid peel and stick badges with our names written on them in Black Sharpie, and catch those very same colored imaginary balls from those same veritable strangers.
And so I did the only thing I could think of, with the few synapses I had left.
I collected each imaginary colored ball as it came my way and declared the game “Over”.
And everyone laughed.
And my work was once again done.
Because that is and will always be, the point of comedy.
There is no need to toss around imaginary balls to make people laugh. Sometimes you can drop them or collect them and put them in your pocketbook and leave the room.
And people will laugh.
And because they laughed, I stayed.
And although I learned that I really did hate Improv with every fibre of my being, I loved making people laugh and because of that I loved my class.
All fifteen 21 or 22 year olds. And Henry, too.
They were great people and not even just because they laughed at what I said.
They were not all aspiring actors, who might have or not have read Scott Sedita’s Book, which instructed them to shell out $36 dollars to take this class or the $295 Improv Workshop A class.
Most of them were normal people, with normal jobs and had found a place to try something that they thought would help them in their normal lives.
They were so, so, so incredibly brave to have been there. They were so game to try what Henry had asked them to do. And after the first few awkward moments, they played the games that Henry instructed with gusto. I was deeply impressed by their courage and jubilance. They tried something new, something that may have or may have not worked, but they entered into it in the spirit of fun.
And at the end of the day, that is the best and maybe the only reason to do anything.
So I am grateful to Scott Sedita, because he suggested I do something I knew I did not want to do, but did anyway. I am grateful he took 10 minutes out of his day to see me. I am grateful for his book, which I actually did read to the end, and enjoyed. I am grateful he suggested an additional course of action for me, which I will tell you about next time, because it’s a doozy, although I am sure he has forgotten what is was.
And most of all, I am grateful he is still, hopefully, my friend. I owe him a huge debt of gratitude and also maybe $100.