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Honor the Secret, by Jordan T. Maxwell

Here’s some thoughts from Jordan T. Maxwell, a long time Hideout Theatre performer, who recently moved back to Austin from Los Angeles and joined the 2nd season of Austin Secrets. Here are his thoughts about the show and the rehearsal process so far. Take it away, Jordan:

My first experience with Austin Secrets was during last season’s run. I was visiting town from Los Angeles and wanted to see my friends perform. I knew nothing about the format. I lucked out in getting one of the final tickets before that night’s show sold out. I sat down expecting a standard improv show (which is, I know, a contradiction in terms…but even still). What I got was so much more.

It was unique. It was theatrical without taking itself seriously. It was playful without being frivolous. It was a five ring multimedia circus of revelation and confession, a strange alchemy of spontaneous fiction sprung from deep internal truth. The audience was keyed in. The players were in top form. It was hilarious. It was moving. There were moments of knowing laughter, moments of shocked (or perhaps feigned) disgust and delicious moments of awkward silence.

Naturally, I started telling people about it…but more strangely, other people started telling ME about it. I’m used to proselytizing about Austin improv to others. I’m not overly accustomed to having word of mouth come my way. Which only reinforced what I’d already felt that night in the theatre: this show was special.

Shortly after I moved back to Austin, I got the announcement that there were going to be auditions for a second season. My first thought was, “SECOND SEASON?” accompanied by a squeal of delight pitched far too high for a man of my age, stature and build. My second thought, “I HAVE to be in this!”

The audition had a huge turnout…seasoned veterans, established players and even students. It was such a fun and supportive environment, even just watching other people’s scenes, that I left with the feeling that even if I didn’t make it, it would be okay because the show would still be excellent. Which made getting selected as one of the few new cast members even more of an honor!
The rehearsal process has been even more fun and challenging. I’ve been doing improv for almost 12 years and in a lot of ways it’s been like going back to basics because in addition to every other rule, tenet and philosophy I’ve learned and trained with, there is one more underlying principle to maintain: always honor the secret. I often like to let a suggestion bounce around inside my brain, playing a cognitive game of free association pinball, and use it more as indirect inspiration than something that has to be directly portrayed. But unlike other shows, the suggestions are not random occupations or locations or emotions shouted out as the first thing to enter an audience member’s mind. They are the deep confessions, the silly embarrassments, the hidden intimate truths of people’s lives. They have power that should not be easily discarded.

So scenes that would be amazing in any other show might not work as an Austin Secrets scene. A character that would stand out on any other night might not be the best Austin Secrets character. So we have to remain true to the fundamentals of improv but always, ALWAYS honor the secret. A secret may inspire a multitude of ways to portray it, but which truly honor the secret? A funny secret might work as a more serious minded scene, but would a deeper and more personal secret work in a lighter or even goofier depiction? That’s the process of discovery we’ve undertaken together. The returning cast members have the benefit of trial and error from last season, the wisdom of gifts and mistakes (often masquerading as one another) they’re happy to remind each other of and share with those of us newer to the fold. And then of course through the miracle of accidents we find something that utterly subverts all of that, usually sending us into fits of laughter, discussion or both. We’re all still learning. We’re all still discovering.

I’ve been doing improv for over a third of my life.

I’m just a beginner.

We’re a company of trained professionals.

We’re all just starting out.

Who knows what we’ll learn and discover tomorrow?

Thanks, Jordan! If that piques your interest, come see Austin Secrets on Saturdays at 8pm in January and February. Get your tickets here.

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