A Day's Work

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Jan 2003 / a day's work :: email this story to a friend

Making It Up as We Go Along
By J. Victor Moore

J. Victor Moore The thought of writing about an "average" day at my job makes me laugh. The very nature of all I do on any day makes it impossible for any day to be average. There is always something that pops up that could not have been calculated for. Once I went home for dinner between rehearsal and the late show, after which we had a musical guest doing a concert. My "spidey-sense" was tingling, so I called before I left my home and asked the person in the box office if everything was going well. He said everything was A-OK. I asked if he was sure, because there's always something. He said there were no problems at all. I triple-checked and said if I could bring anything from home or stop somewhere on the way in, that it might make things easier. He assured me everything was hunky-dory. When I arrived at CITY Improv, I made no more than five steps into the door when my boss, the musical guest and another employee surrounded me and began to tell me that we didn't have a certain kind of adaptor to make all of the musical equipment compatible, and we had no idea if the musician would be able to be heard. The act went unplugged and was a hit, and I still trust my "spidey-sense" over any other information.

Even with every day being full of surprises, there are many things that happen regularly enough to give an idea of what all goes on behind our scenes at our CITY Improv. I'll give you a rundown of what happens on our busiest day every week — Saturday. I arrive in the morning and take care of double-checking the previous night's numbers from the bar and box office, answer phone and email messages mostly pertaining to reservations for that night, and set up the box office for that evening. I also spend time arranging guest acts, setting up classes/workshops, overseeing marketing efforts, staffing, arranging private shows, and trying to keep things tidy. During the afternoon we usually have a class or workshop of some kind going on, and the CITY Improv cast rehearsal goes from 4 to 6. During this time I am usually fielding calls and manning the box office window — making reservations, selling tickets and answering questions. The most common question is, "What comedians do y'all have tonight?" This is usually a sign that they're not aware of the kind of show we do and are expecting some kind of stand-up act. I explain to them that we have a cast of about 20 and we rotate them through every show and perform improv-comedy where all the material is made up on the spot instead of telling the same jokes every night. The usual response is, "You mean like that TV show, uh...uh, 'What's My Line?'" Then I explain how improv on TV is still manufactured in many ways.

Rehearsal ends at 6 and the cast for that night is back by 6:30 to set up and warm up for the show at 7:30. Sometimes I'm responsible for watching the door or box office throughout the show, as all players do sometime or another. Sometimes I'm in the show either playing or hosting (my favorite job), and sometimes I tend bar. No matter what, I'm running around like crazy putting out fires (metaphorically), like doing little extras to make patrons happy, or telling the Hyatt Regency they can't block our only handicapped-accessible restrooms just because somebody got married.

After the late show on Saturday (about 11:45, after the patrons mostly clear out), everybody pitches in to clear the chairs and tables from the house, and one of the directors gives notes on the goods and bads of the shows. I sometimes sit in even when I haven't been in either show just to keep abreast on any tweaks in the way we play certain games, how the directors are addressing shows and how players are addressing their notes. Note session are followed by what we call "Alphas," where everyone involved tells the group something they liked about it so that we end with a positive spin. Then the task at hand is deciding on who's partying where afterward. There is usually a get-together of some kind somewhere. When this is taken care of we head out, lock up and spend time at the get-togethers talking about ideas for future shows, events, policies, patrons we loved/hated and points in the show where we felt in a real group-mind, or fell flat on our faces.

At the end of almost every day I always feel like I have the best job I could have ever asked for, that I have left CITY Improv that day better than I found it, and remind myself that this is exactly what I told myself I'd be doing after I walked away from pursuing a theatre degree in college.

You can find the always-jaunty J. Victor Moore at the door, in the show or behind the bar at CITY Improv, in beautiful Union Station.

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