I just figured it out. I think I’m kind of a Wanda Sykes.

Now, I’ve been a professional performer all my adult life. Had decades of touring my show and teaching all kinds of theater to all ages, certainly adults, across many, many states. I’ve dragged my show equipment through enough airports and towns throughout the years that now I swear my arms are longer. Takes a lot of negotiating, work to get there, sometimes negotiations stretched over a year for each show, but once I’m on stage, I make it fun. And, every show I always work in an element of Improv and audience participation. It keeps it fresh. It keeps it fun.

But now I’m off the road and in Improv classes solely to stay loose for on-camera auditions. And it’s supposed to be fun. Let me say that again. Improv classes are supposed to be fun. That’s the best way anyone learns.

Recently I found myself in a stare down with a teacher that was working hard to make a point. And one that kept grinding on me for me to search my brain to evoke an emotion. All for his teachable moment. And if you know me well, you know already he’s walking through a minefield. It’s not that I’m not teachable and I know I’ve got more to learn. And I’m sure he’s famous, I mean, we’re all out there, working actors. But once this Wanda Sykes gives you an honest answer, that’s all you’re getting.

So, I just let him keep grinding to see how far he’d go. Yeah, the screw tightened. And though he doesn’t know me, or hasn’t seen me perform or the packed audiences for my shows, what did finally escape his lips was a little negative sidebar about the possibility of my lack of abilities in Improv.

I didn’t even have to ask myself, WWWSD? But I thought it best at the time, not to say, “I’ll cut you.” Or, “How do you like running in front of my car? It’s a team sport.”

What it does bring to me is the point that’s most important for a teacher that teaches adults. You have to earn the students’ respect. And to do that, the best thing a teacher can do, when a lesson goes sideways, is stay positive and tactful. And, if you’re getting the Wanda Sykes stare down, it’s time to back off and look at your teaching methods.

Been there, done that, done it a lot. Sure, that’s me. But, I just finally figured it out. I’m kind of a Wanda Sykes. And I’ve given myself permission to be full-on me. Maybe I should give the world warning. Nah, let’s just let it be a surprise. – by Martha Hannah