Basic at The Groundlings – Part 3 (The “Did Jordan Really Say I Was Funny? Well, Let Me Just Psych Myself Out, Then” Chapter)

July 3, 2012

Lisa Simpson in a pink dress, rubbing her arm, looking touched I left off yesterday with Jordan telling me I was funny.

I know, right? I’m not over it either.

I proceeded to psych myself out. Hardcore.

Let me tell you what happened. My biggest note from Jordan, in my midterm, was confidence. Biggest, number 1, most important note. “Aurora. I swear, if you do not jump in earlier on exercises and games – and make me believe that you think you deserve to be on the stage improv-ing every time you’re up there – I will kick you out of this program.” That’s not actually how Jordan talks. At all.

He didn’t threaten to kick me out of the program. That’s just my brain amplifying it. Jordan is so funny and kind. My evaluation was phrased in a sweeter way, but still. Confidence was my key to being a better improviser. And it was my number one note from him.

I was determined to listen and surprise him with a change in the second half of the semester. I wanted him to know that I heard him, and could take a note.

In the following class after my midterm, we played some game where everybody had to participate. I don’t know, Follow the Leaver, or Freeze Tag, or something.

I was watching intently, waiting to jump in. There’s the problem. Waiting. Oh boy. Of course Jordan called me out it. “Aurora, what are you waiting for? Get in there!”


That was my brain switching from a somewhat helpful, productive part of me to an eating-itself doubting machine.

Lisa Simpson making her d'oh face (slapping forehead)Brain: “Aurora. You had one main note. One. One thing, more than any of the smaller notes, was the main focus. The one thing you couldn’t forget. Jordan told you to be more confident, and then in the very next class he has to call you out for being one of the last people to jump into a game? Well, you’ve really ruined it big time now, missy. You know what Jordan’s gonna think, don’t you? ‘That girl can’t even take a note. She goes in the opposite direction of the note. She can’t even listen. What kind of actress – what kind of person is she?'”

As my brain ate itself, every scene and exercise got worse for the rest of class. For some reason, that day, we did about a million. I got worse with each one. I was like an out of control train, hurdling toward a cliff of failure. I couldn’t be stopped. I was deteriorating by the second. By the end of the class, I’d almost forgotten how to speak English or stand up.

I had tears right behind my eyes toward the end. You know – when you know a good cry is coming on quite soon, but right before your eyes get red. That tiny moment where you may be the only person around you who realizes you’re about to sob it all out.

Yet there was still one more game. Holy goodness, how is it not 6:30 yet? It feels like I’ve been trapped in this room for 3 1/2 years! How are 3 1/2 hours not up? I somehow successfully (and I use the word “successfully” quite loosely) made it through the final exercise without having a complete meltdown.

Finally I was free. I ran out of the room – not in the “draw attention myself, I’m about to explode” way, but in the “oh, I’m just quickly leaving because I totally have some place to be, of course” way. As soon as I was out the door of the school, I turned the corner and tears started streaming down my face.

What did I just do to myself?

I came from sub-mediocrity to possible future improviser in a short three weeks, just to plummet way below sub-mediocrity to sub-human being in one class. I quietly cried on the bus on the way home, and continued to cry once I got there.

Homer Simpson face down, banged up and bloody after falling down Springfield Gorge

In reality in that first game, he was just giving a note. He didn’t call me out anymore than he did anyone else. He was totally right to call me out on it. I’m sure he moved on in a nanosecond. (It was a warm up game, by golly.) I didn’t need to get stuck in time right then. I’m sure he didn’t.

He’s an excellent teacher. For sure, it wasn’t anything he did to cause my total plummeting off of that failure cliff. He did not push me off of it. I fell (jumped?). (He’s the kind of helpful teacher that was probably even trying to belay me in this climbing analogy-ish. But alas, I was beyond saving.)

(It sounds sad-ish, but I hope you’re reading it in a lighthearted manner. Everything’s gonna work out okay, so we can all laugh about it now.) The story continues on Thursday!

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