Get Off the Island
Improvisers have to be proactive. Since this improv life is voluntary, no one is going to knock on your door and hand you an opportunity. You have to go out there an audition for teams, take classes, go to shows, make connections, and build relationships. You have to put bottles out there and see what comes back.
The putting-bottles-out-there metaphor works like this. You are on an island wanting to get off. To ask for help, all you have is bottles, paper, and corks. You write down “Help! I’m on a deserted island! Come get me!” You put the message in the bottle, drop it in the ocean, and hope someone gets it and comes rescue you.
It would be foolish to only put one bottle out there, so you ship as many bottles as you can, increasing your chances of one of them coming back. You put bottles out there everyday because more bottles will drift off into the void than bottles that come back.
Here’s how it works for improv: the island is your present state (you want something you don’t have); the bottles are things you want from the improv life (more show time, studying with a particular teacher, new experiences); shipping the bottles is putting those offers out (asking your theater for more show time, hitting up coaches, forming your dream team); waiting for those bottles to come back is waiting to see if people accept your offers or not.
So when you put bottles out there, you’re asking people—theaters, peers,whoever—to help you get what you want—knowledge, show time, producing something experimental, trying a new format, or just whatever you can’t achieve on your own.
Some people will say “Yes,” others will say, “No,” but you won’t know if you don’t ask. Hit people up. Ask them to help you out with your projects, dreams, and visions. Some of the greatest artistic projects we’ve known—Led Zeppelin, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Monty Python—were the result of people putting offers out there and others accepting them.
Be bold improvisers! Go after what you want! I applied for a Groundlings Diversity Scholarship and I got it—after being rejected the first time! Bottles are offers, so flood the universe!