At some point in every improviser’s career, they come to crossroads and they ask themselves if continuing with improv is “worth it”. Sometimes improv doesn’t charge us like it used to and we begin to look as to reasons why that’s the case. This could be a career, personal, or artistic query but usually it falls under the personal category (don’t all things?), and when your need to walk away from improv becomes personal, many actors quit in the worst ways possible.
Improv is a collaborative endeavor. You’re normally part of a team with anywhere from 2-12 people. Thus, when you quit a team, it affects a lot of people. Yes, there is such a thing as quitting in a “good” way. I define a “good” way to quit as quitting where everyone involved can respect each afterwards. The parties involved may not like that a break had to happen but at least there’s no prolonging the inevitable and putting the team/project in jeopardy artistically and morally. The “bad” way is where people feel angry, hurt, and/or vindictive towards each other as a result of someone’s departure. I do recognize that sometimes it’s impossible to break up with a group in a bad way but I think a lot of the drama can be avoided with the few tips I give below.
Despite the advances in modern technology, the best way to quit is to stand in front of everyone and quit. Be willing to be the bigger person and tell them their faces that it’s over. You may have to submit to some painful responses but in the end you conquer the moral high ground in the situation. Be an adult and deal with it.
With that said, there are a couple of situations where it’s acceptable to quit without a confrontation:
I have experienced some very heated exchanges with people leaving where people get to upset they had to restrained. If you feel that by quitting there will be a good chance a fist fight will break out, go ahead and avoid the physical confrontation. If the break up culminates into physical violence, maybe that group really wasn’t worth your time in the first place.
It’s important for you to hear the group’s thoughts on your departure to provide a sense of closure for you and the team; however, if you are going to quit and stand there and receive unnecessary verbal abuse, don’t accept it. You are providing the common decency to hear them out, but to become a verbal punching bag so that the others in the group feel better at your expense is stupid.
If those scenarios above aren’t applicable, just do it in person. My experience has been that when I’ve quit in this manner, people are usually very level headed, understanding, and even grateful to you for doing so. Sometimes, you may even hug things out at the end 🙂
Sometimes circumstances will not allow you to quit in person. If you’re dead-set against doing it in person, phone calls are in order. Make it a group call if possible. Gather everyone in a room, have them put a phone on speaker,quit, and begin the discussions. You still provide a forum for hearing people out and providing closure for you and the team. This isn’t as powerful as being their in person but at least you’re providing real-time feedback for everyone involved.
If you cannot get everyone in the same room to do it all at once, you should call each person in the group individually. Yes, this is cumbersome but the effort will be appreciated. A major drawback to this is that sometimes having people in the same room hearing the information at the same time will force people’s responses to be a bit more reasonable, i.e., people may flip out on the phone when it’s 1-on-1 versus being in a group dynamic where that behavior wouldn’t normally be tolerated. My experience has been that people are again pretty level-headed and appreciative of you reaching out in such a manner to address the issue.
If you’re doing a 1-on-1 approach and team members do not answer their phones, try again! Give them 3-5 chances to connect with you. If you leave a message, don’t leave a message quitting. Ask them to call you back and stress that it’s important. If they’re the kind of person that doesn’t “like to talk on the phone” *<–uhg*, text them and ask them to break their taboo for you this one time. If they don’t respond after a number of attempts to do it right, then stop trying in this manner – obviously, you leaving isn’t a big deal to them and you’ve still won the moral high ground by trying to quit with respect and dignity.
This method as a primary way to quit chaps my hide a bit. I hate it because it’s too easy to quit this way. You can just send your notice and move on without dealing with the backlash you might receive as result. Modern technology has given us the ability to deliver information to each other at light speed while simultaneously lowering our empathy towards each other’s feelings. Only use these methods if meeting or calling isn’t possible. ‘Nuff said.
This is the WORST WAY to quit!!! Quit by ignoring the problem, i.e., notifying nobody, ceasing to come to rehearsals/shows, not returning communication, etc, is super unprofessional and cowardly. The theatre world is small and if you decide to quit in this manner, it will come back to haunt you down the road. Don’t do it.
If time has come for you to leave your improv team for greener pastures, do so with class. It’ll make your transition into your next team that much easier and smoother. Good luck!