Thank goodness I learned how to improvise by doing murder mysteries early in my career because this Friday put my skills to the test. The Universe was my scene partner.
After months of trying to get in to see the mayor of Stamford to lay out our theatre concept and see if he would be supportive of it, I finally got a meeting. Important because we could make inroads to spaces, people, etc with his seal of approval.
My terrific and already very involved Executive Director, Jamibeth Margolis, was coming up on the train from New Jersey/NY and my husband suggested I take the train down to Stamford instead of braving the traffic on 95 south at that time of the morning.
I hopped on the express train to Stamford and was getting in at 8:55am. Perfect for our 9:30am meeting. On the train ride I was making notes for a short outline I wanted to use when I saw the signs for “Greenwich” pass by the window and I panicked! I had missed my stop! In nine years of traveling on the train to and from NYC I have never missed my stop. It had taken me so long to get this meeting! Calls, emails, actually running up to the mayor at the Reinventing Stamford meeting and having him give me his card, then more calls, and emails and then finally getting an appointment.
Jamibeth was already in Stamford and I ran down the aisle of the train to find a conductor so I could get off at the next stop only to find out this was an express train with no more stops until 125th Street in NYC! That is another half hour from Greenwich!
Here is where the universe began participating in my forced improvisation. After my panic attack the whole train car of really nice folks started giving me advice on the times of the next train out of 125th street and back to Stamford and utilizing general calming techniques on me. Usually we all ignore each other. The coolest Jamaican lady talked to me until I calmed down and told me about the time she had an interview as a professor for Yale and was late. When she found out I was a teacher she related this to being a very good teaching tool for my students, told me I would always remember today and asked me to write her later about how it turned out. I did.
After I had calmed down a bit more I called the mayor’s office telling them I had had some trouble with the trains. It’s not a lie, I did.
I thought they would shut me out because he is super busy, but they were extremely nice. I told them I wouldn’t arrive until 10:45am and calculating a 10 minute walk to his office I would arrive right before 11. They told me to come anyway and that he could see me from 11-11:15. Not the amount of time I wanted but Jamibeth was already there and had come about 2 hours plus on her trains. This meeting was so important to see if Stamford has the support we want for this project, so I resigned myself to this improvised plan.
After disembarking at 125th street I jumped back on the train towards Stamford. The sweetest conductor in the world didn’t charge me again after I told him my story. Again, not usual but clearly a part of our improve. The Universe and me. As I neared Stamford Jamibeth told me on the phone that it was indeed a 10 minute walk and that no taxis would take you to the office because it was too close. I have no idea why the man next to me wanted to become a part of our scene, but so that I could sprint to the mayor’s and get a few more minutes on my meeting he actually jogged with me out to the street I needed to be on and pointed out an improvised shortcut that cut five minutes off my sprint.
In the elevator of the government building I changed from tennis shoes to pretty boots on the way up to the 10th floor. Jamibeth was in the lobby and in a couple minutes we were escorted in.
I have often had to improvise a “put-together look” for auditions when I have dashed from one to the next and with Jamibeth’s great supportive energy I was able to lay out our proposal to the Mayor as if I had planned to make a 15 minute presentation all the time. At the end of the overview the mayor said, “Kristin, just a little advice. Next time you do a presentation I suggest you become more animated, get more passionate and more knowledgeable about your subject”.
As that is advice I have never heard in my whole life (it’s usually more like “slow down” or “wow you are really intense” it took me a second or two to realize he was joking. Becoming a part of the scene. Everyone laughed and we continued the conversation until 11:36. He asked great questions and offered help and support. Jamibeth said he really seemed to get it and be on board. I thought so too but was still a bit in shock over how well this had turned out.
I didn’t expect the day to turn out so well at all after I missed my train stop. I didn’t explain the theatre’s concept to those folks on the train, nor to the man who jogged me to the mayor’s office so I am not sure what really happened there to make all those people join in the moment of improv. Perhaps when you are on a mission people can tell and they are attracted to the energy.
In the spirit of the Tony’s last night “I would like to thank my scene partner, The Universe”.