Wednesday, November 19, 2014

At first I was like

Wouldn't it be quite the conspiracy theory if the designer was comparing the women who wear $7600 gold bracelets to horses that are controlled by actual horsebits, but in the womens' cases, what controls them is the gold?

Then I was like, yeah, that's probably what's going on.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Improv Community is Different

It's now been 8 years since I started regularly socializing with and then joining in with improvisers. Prior to that, I went to see shows at Loose Moose during my high school and university years. Improvisers were magic to me. One time, a friend and I accidentally went to the same pub that the improvisers all went to after the show, and Derek Flores chatted with us and I felt starstruck. He was my favourite, along with Dennis Cahill, Graham Davies and Rebecca Northan. When my stepson was 11, my husband started to take him to see Gorilla Theatre. They became regulars and, as a professional sound and lighting designer, Michael volunteered to help in those areas. Connor started running lights and they became a tech duo. I came in a few months later via costume design and lights. After my husband Michael and I started volunteering, we became a part of the same loose but warm community of artists and entertainers. We then discovered another group, The Kinkonauts, and were drawn to the classes and work being created there as well as to the people themselves. Over the past 8 years we've created strong ties and real friendships with enough people to fill an impressively large roster of Facebook contacts, all of whom we genuinely like. Each one of these people would not be in our lives if it wasn't for improv. I've thought about it, and I don't think I would have felt this particular sense of community with any other group of people.

Beatdown, Spring 2014: I'm the one in red
There are a few different reasons why the improv community is different than any other group that you will ever belong to. The first is the One Thing In Common. There are many groups that have wonderfully diverse membership, but the reason the group exists in the first place varies. Calgary Cat Fanciers all have cats. The running club is about running. You wouldn't join AA if you didn't feel you needed help with the first A. The One Thing In Common (OTIC) for improvisers is "yes and". "Accept give". "Back forth". The fundamental reason improvisers are together is because this root concept of being open and vulnerable and accepting and generous with the rest of the group is the foundation of the community. If you're in the improv community, you've got this quality or at least the potential for it. Pat yourself on the back, you're a good person. The OTIC of improv is something that resides within you, and isn't something you can buy at a hobby store.

One side effect of practicing good improv is that you become a nicer person. If you can be a generous scene partner in a class or on stage in a show, your personal self has probably become infected with a bunch of good qualities such as listening, patience, empathy and helpfulness. We are like an auto show club but the things we collect and trick out our cars with for the show are experiences we've had during classes, creating work with others who are like us. Being in a good scene requires that you are able to feel things with other people who only want the best for you. An entire community of people who are all constantly getting better at lifting each other up is a powerfully supportive personal network.

Like any group of humans, negativity within the community will be experienced from time to time, usually stemming from regular ol' human characteristics like insecurity or gossip. However, growth as an improviser requires you to constantly chip away at those concrete shoes that have built up around your feet, weighing you down in the sea of life. The improv community is a patient one and will wait for you to float to the surface and join everybody. Sometimes people get dragged back down by seaweed, but those who remain above will look down and warmly welcome you when you are able to come back up for air. They might even throw you a knife. Improv is full of knives whizzing across the stage. It's a good thing our aim is so good (we miss on purpose).

Before I started taking improv classes, I was pretty friendless. I was a "one or two good friends" type of person until I discovered boyfriends. I tried, or maybe the better wording is desperately wanted, to make a group of friends but I was so shy that the old suggestions of "take an art class", "join an online group/platonic dating site" didn't really do anything for me- I would never talk to anybody in the first place or know how to respond in such a way as to encourage repeat hang-outs. Improv has worn down those personal walls that kept me feeling lonely all of the time. It has taught me how to accept gifts gratefully and to make others happy; to notice others, and also, myself. I didn't realize how much I didn't see me until I did. It's the first group I've been a part of that has given me a sense of true community.

Upcoming show week at the Birds & Stone Theatre, Calgary

Thursday, November 6, 2014

My Theory About Improv and Everything

I'm in a train the trainer type class at the moment. It's being run for those of us in the improv company who share an interest in one day teaching classes. Currently, I don't think I would be chosen to lead public classes because I feel like my improv in general has been a bit off lately, but this is free instruction, and being taught by a teacher I haven't had in a while. Imma take this goddamn class. The omnipresent "they" say that teaching is a great way to learn. I'm in it for me, not to bring the love of improv to orphans and stop war. The class, which at the outset was to be 2 or 3 sessions has morphed into a biweekly series with no clear ending. I love it. We are forced to spend more money on babysitters, as it falls in the same time slot as my husb's improv class, but it's worth it. 

A couple of classes ago the teacher mentioned that your personal school/theory of improv is revealed in what you teach. We take turns running exercises; so far I've done a higher energy circle warm-up game and a 2-person directed scene (with me as the director). Pulling from the objectives of the exercises I chose, my personal theory of improv includes:

-an ability to be silly or a large character in front of others
-an ability to develop, build and sustain a rhythmic flow with others
-teamwork: everybody adding equally
-expanding "yes and" to also mean "react then act"
-honing the ability to read other people and discovering the subtext

There are many more in my personal collection of improv theory bullet points, of course, but I'm focusing on the reasons behind those two exercises.

The class is also working on:

-be concise

As for the Everything part, I find that these bullet points are all things I'm always trying to work on in my real, non-improv-but-just-as-improvised life. I'm a shy person. Yes. I'm a shy person and I have real shy-shame about it. I often feel that I'm the gear that isn't quite in sync with the rest of the machine. I have difficulty finding the correct balance point between give and take; it's always to much of one of the other. I believe other team members constantly think that the team would be stronger without me. I say yes more than I and.

In text I often backtrack to remove unnecessary words and distractions. In person, I need to cut the shit. All of it. From every place that shit has gathered. There's too much. Out of the shit-wagon and dumped on to the ground, its energy broken down into fertilizer for what needs to grow. Yeah, metaphor.

I've been taking in a lot of Dave Razowsky lately, in the form of his podcast and his two classes available at iActing Studios. I purchased an e-version of The Viewpoints Book. It's already one of those books that feel like home. I want to learn and experience the shit out of all of that.