My good friend, Josh Nicols of Spectacles Improv Engine, is not just a model leader in running an improv community, he is wise about what happens when you are the face or leader of a community.
Josh shared with me the term the "joy tax" recently. Simply put leaders, teachers, and directors, give a little bit away of our joy that improv brings us so that others can experience the full force of the improv experience. Caring, growing and nurturing an improv company and community takes something from you. That's okay, it is however, important to be aware of this so you can take care of yourself when this happens.
I see people I care about thrive, grow, and blossom but for them to do that, I have put in countless hours, take precious time away from family, my own creativity and time on stage I'm happy to do it and most times I know it's the price I have to pay for leading AdLib Theatre.
Recently, I feel I am getting taxed more than usual. Summer can be hard for improv theaters. Summer in central Florida is hard in general. So put those together, things are just difficult. I know registration for classes slows down, players start to lose focus, go on vacation, and up and move around this time of year. All of this and more has taken place at AdLib. As a result, I have found myself void of empathy, short on patience, and getting angry at improv. There are many days when I'm pretty sure my sheer will and stubbornness is what is holding this entire program together and if not careful I can become bitter and definitely exhausted.
I'm not telling you this to feel bad for me. I share this so you know you are not alone! You are doing something amazing and something very few are capable of doing. You are providing opportunities for others to find their voice, hone their creativity, and feel connected to a community. I know that it sucks to feel disconnected to the very people you are connecting, it's okay.....IT IS OKAY!
Find something to help you feel connected or that fuels you. I reach out to my peers outside of my immediate community. People like Josh Nicols, who understand and can listen when I need to talk or give me ideas when I run out of my own. I find creativity that's different than every day improv.
For example, I am taking a playwright class through Second City-Online. It's not comedy and it's scripted! It's just for me. No worrying about casting teams, producing shows, other people's feelings, emotional needs, or holding a theater together.
Other things that have worked have been scaling back the amount of nights I am teaching. I know that bills have to be paid! However, if I cannot give myself fully to my students, bills won't even be an issue because there will be no space in existence. I am going out to different things in the community. Such as trivia night, bad movie night, and brunch. I'm even just saying no to outings, sitting on my own couch and watching Netflix!
I'm also making sure to connect with my family. They can be taxed too! Instead of having movie night marathons with improvisers, I'm having it with my husband and kids.
Find what works. Talk out loud about this issue. Connect with others. Let's all work together and keep the joy of improv alive!