About a year after James graduated from NYU, and maybe a couple of years before I started Brooklyn College, we had a little indie improv team. Our name was Albatross Applesauce, and we performed a total of three shows. We rehearsed plenty. We worked with coaches and on our own, and one day someone - probably James - was like, it's time to start doing shows. I would have been happy to just keep rehearsing until the end of time, but, he was right, it was probably time. We did a one at The Creek and the Cave, in Long Island City, then one at a place I don't remember, and then one at this crazy divey bar in the East Village called the Tiki Room.
The show was terrible. It was barely a show. There was no stage, and the "audience" wasn't so much "paying attention" as "wondering what the H was going on while they were trying just trying to drink their damn beers, for pete's sake".
The next day, or maybe the day after that, I sent an email out to our team (there were six of us, counting James and myself) with a kind of gentle "good job" and some thoughts about our next rehearsal/performance. I called the performance "successful", in my exact words.
Well, that word, "successful" caused a complete implosion. Andrew started it off, emailing back saying that maybe he didn't want to be involved with performers who thought that that show was a success (this from a guy who started every single scene talking in this weird, froggy, I think supposedly "funny" voice. but whatever). Pat followed, saying kind of the same thing, then Preshant. And then, we just didn't have a team any more.
It's not like I didn't see it coming. It wasn't a great fit. And teams break up all the time. I wasn't annoyed that the team disbanded, but I was surprised at the way people responded to the word I'd used. I'm not an idiot. I knew that was a terrible show. It was a bad venue, and we weren't funny. Frankly, none of us were (none of us, Andrew). But it was successful because we did it. Because we all trekked over there on a cold Saturday night at like, ten o'clock, and freaking did it. That's what made it a success.
James fired back a pretty impassioned response to our former teammates, but I just stayed out of it. I felt badly that they didn't understand me. Not that I felt badly about what I'd said, but I felt badly that they didn't get it. I sort of pitied them. Because, if they felt that our performance was a failure - valueless - then they had a very disappointing road ahead of them.
Amy Poehler says, "Be okay with writing really bad stuff for a long time - just keep doing it. The act of doing it, the muscle memory of it, is more important than how it is. That's why improv was so instrumental for me, because you would do shows every night, and they would suck every night, and one night they'd be okay, and it would sustain you for another year."
When we were in New York doing Indivisible a lot of people asked what the plan was for it. Like, what was the next step with it. And, there isn't one. Maybe James will seek publication for it somewhere, but, we did it simply for the sake of doing it. Because getting stuff done is good practice for getting stuff done. I believe that many roads lead to Rome. I don't believe that they're all direct routes.
And I think I live a more peaceful life because of this. Not everything has to be perfect, or "successful". The next play I do doesn't have to be my big break. The next essay I write doesn't have to catch the eye of the editor at Salon. I'm just going to keep doing things. And, eventually, I'll get to where I'm going.
And, interestingly enough, parenthood is actually a lot the same. There's a lot of room for frustration, because there are a lot of apparent failures. Whole days start to resemble that show at the Tiki Room. I'm up there, putting on a show, and Edie's drinking her beer and getting a new tooth and just NOT. INTERESTED. And instead of putting her to bed and crying because we just didn't connect, I put her to bed and tell James about the one funny thing that happened when she got rice in her ear and wouldn't let me take it out, and then I watch some Murder, She Wrote, and go to bed, after a successful day. Because she's alive, and well, and because calling my day a success doesn't delude me into thinking it was perfect. But it does make me excited to try it again.