Eating Garbage Graciously
Eating Garbage Graciously is a thesis project I created, devised, and directed. EGG (Eating Garbage Graciously) culminated my undergraduate collegiate education as a BFA Theatre Performance major in the Honors College at LIU Post.
Improvisation and verbatim theatre are two forms of theatrical performance that are distinct from each other in format and style, but can be combined to create a dynamic new form of performance. In this paper, I address how my personal experience with improvisation, or improv, led me on a journey to create my own long-form improv format, “The Vermando”. This paper details its use in my honors performance thesis, Eating Garbage Graciously. My original improv format, “The Vermando”, bridges together rehearsed verbatim theatre pieces and improvised performances to unleash a hybrid theatrical performance that uses improv to explore the stories of various human beings.
Improv improved my life because it taught me how to fail. When I learned that going up on stage with only my mind, body, and another person was all I needed, I realized that my own determination to “get things right” got in the way of me being present with myself. “Eating Garbage Graciously,” comes from that. Failing Dignified. The foundation of this quote comes from a podcast interview with Rachael Mason from The Second City Chicago; she says, “You have to go through a lot of rejection and experience before you can get to the point where you can put up your own show. You have to Eat Shit Graciously.” Well, the word “shit” didn’t roll off my tongue quite enough for me to include it in my thesis, but this advice stuck with me. Through my improv training, I’ve learned to embrace all my failures with a wide smile. I believe the sooner people learn to embrace their flaws and “the garbage” parts of themselves, the sooner they will find self-happiness and learn how to define their own success. My time studying improv in Chicago helped to remove a level of stress that I never knew I carried into every part of my life. Improv unleashed the funny, messy, positive person who I am today.
Through my improv studies, I’ve met and improvised with artists from all over the world. I have friends from Australia, Poland, England, China, Singapore, Peru, Germany, Lithuania, Denmark, etc. from studying improv. Being exposed to people from diverse cultures made me realize how ignorant I had been about the world outside of the United States. In just having lunch with my classmates, I was able to learn about their ways of life and that’s when I realized that improv serves not only as an outlet to combat anxiety, but also as a melting pot for different cultures and points of view to come together. With my piece, Eating Garbage Graciously, I wanted to combine improvisation and also give voice to points of view that people might not think about. My piece is a hybrid of Verbatim Theatre and the long-form improv format “The Armando” (“Vermando”, if you will). In a typical Armando, there’s a person who improvises a monologue supported by a team of improvisers. Once the monologist finishes their monologue, the improvisers perform scenes inspired from the details they took from the monologist’s piece. In this piece, we replace the improvised monologue with prepared verbatim pieces that each cast member has rehearsed independently. None of the cast knows each other’s pieces so they will get to watch their verbatim monologue extrapolated and improvised along with the audience.
I want people to leave this piece feeling like they have been exposed to points of view that they never expected to experience, and that improv can be just as engaging with serious material as it is with comedic material. Improv is an art-form that many actors don’t prioritize because people don’t understand how meaningful it is. If there’s a single thing I want people to take away from this piece it’s that you’re going to have to eat a lot of garbage in life, and improv teaches people to eat their garbage graciously. When you discover that what you thought was “waste” isn’t a waste at all, you can rise above the residue and live graciously.
LIU Digital Commons
Video of Performance March 10th 2019