Trying to get to that place called Heaven

Thanks to all who commented on my last blog entry. I had no idea it would hit such a nerve. As hard as some of the comments were to hear, please know I heard you. And for those I offended, forgive me. That surely wasn’t my intention.

When it comes to blogging, truth is, I’m new at it. I read somewhere that blogs can be a great platform for sharing information in lighter chunks. So I thought a tips piece would be useful. But I learned when it comes to brevity, thoughtful consideration of content and context is essential.

One of the best pieces of advice I got regarding the content of the blog itself came from Joe Bill in Chicago. He dropped me a line the day after the comments started pouring in: “I think a less emphatic tone and, ironically, more tender consideration of context might have made the piece more broadly accessible.”

I’ve learned a lot and moving forward on this blog, I will strive for that in all of my pieces.

I was wrong about my “one percent” remark. Over the last week, I’ve reflected. I’ve played with some amazing men over the years. Men that are respectful to women on and off stage. Men who are emotionally intelligent and aware. Thank the Gods for you. I know you are many.

Unfortunately, in my lifetime, I’ve also experienced and witnessed sexual harassment and sexist remarks by men – on stage and off. And so have many other women that I know. There are an extraordinary amount of hidden stories on this topic. For men and women – I know. Some of us internalize things, feel shame about it, and don’t share our truths. We go through awful experiences of disrespect and blame ourselves. We’ve come a long way, but we aren’t really there yet, baby. You know – that place called Heaven. (Thank you Lori Shantzis for the reference.)

My perspectives are my own and they are always changing.

I have a BFA in Acting, and an MA in Counseling Psychology with an emphasis in Drama Therapy. I’m a licensed and practicing psychotherapist, drama therapist, and play therapist. I believe the artistic process and product of theatre can evoke social change.

During my days, I work as a social worker in foster care and adoption. This work demands I study systems of oppression, cycles of violence (including physical, sexual, and emotional abuse), and the effects of trauma (PTSD).

I also have a wonderful theater with my husband in San Francisco and we are committed to ensuring a safe place for men and women alike to learn and practice the art of long-form improvisation.

I want all my players to know that if they experience sexual harassment and/or sexism while working at Leela, they can speak up about it and we’ll do what needs to be done to ensure it does not continue.

A little tip clarity, here goes …

I do not see women as disabled in any way, as some people commented. Forgive me if my tips led to that perception. It was surely not my intention. To me, it’s important that both genders agree to play together cooperatively and incorporate and support each other’s individual and unique strengths and weaknesses.

Regarding the improvising female content tip, the point I was trying to make (and didn’t manage to) is that all of us have vast universes of qualities to explore on stage. If you land on typical female stereotypes, I just wish people would go deeper. But who knows, that may be censoring. I just personally think it’s more interesting when people expand beyond them.

In regards to the playing with real props tip, I’ve taken some workshops with Julie Payne (The Committee) and was inspired. Her Los Angeles improv ensemble called The Wims, played with prop installations in their scene work, which gave them freedom to play with aesthetic, symbolism, and visual pictures. I was just suggesting giving it a try if you feel like it. Just to change things up.

Between Payne’s workshop, which was filled with about 20 women and some of my Leela women players, space object work has been discussed as a challenge. Maybe it’s just the women I’ve worked with the last few years in San Francisco. I’ve heard it so much, I made the mistake of assuming ALL women fit into that category.

Clearly, a lot of you up in Seattle got the space object work down. Come and teach my ladies and me how to step up our object work game. We’re always open to new workshops down here.

My blog was also inspired by Amy E. Seham’s book, “Whose Improv Is It Anyway?” which explores the power games, the gender inequities, and the racial tensions that can emerge in improvised performance, and it shares the techniques and strategies veteran players use to combat these problems. I highly recommend it.

I understand many improvisors do not share similar backgrounds, educations, and my perspectives. I thank you and acknowledge you for your perspective, and your background of personal, educational, and professional experiences that led you to your perspective in the comments here.

Thanks again for all of them.

About Femprovisor
Femprovisor = Jill Eickmann, the founder and Artistic Director of Leela, San Francisco's premier long-form improvisational theatre company and training center. She also serves as an Associate Producer for the San Francisco Improv Festival.