Shame!

First Time?

I felt instant improv shame earlier this week…

I’ve been reading Mick Napier’s “Improvise. Scenes from the Inside Out” (a book I feel I should have read a long time ago, and feel even more shame about having waited so long to pick it up.) In a Harold show, playing with people with whom I don’t regularly play, I pulled a rookie “This is my first time…” move to initiate a scene.

According to Napier, first day/time scenes are justifications allowing the improviser to be incompetent or uninformed in the scene. Basically, by admitting to not knowing anything, you put the onus on your partner to do all the heavy lifting.

Reading the book, I honestly didn’t think I had a problem with “first days” or too much justification. But as I entered the scene on Tuesday and those words came out of my mouth, I wanted to hit the Rewind button and swallow them back in.

I imagined Napier walking into the theatre, hearing me utter those words, roll his eyes and walk right back out.

Luckily, I had a good partner. And heavy-lifting, he did.

A nice thing about a long form set is that there’s often chances to redeem yourself.

Hit it Harder

Later in the set, I rolled around on the floor for what felt like hours (it was maybe max 15 seconds.) This is a pretty big physical offer, even for someone who doesn’t mind the occasionally large physical offer. In these moments, I felt a strong sense of “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING? YOU LOOK LIKE A FOOL” — not only in my own head, but I imagined it coming from the other characters in the scene and every other improviser in the audience.

It had also been a while since I’ve felt those feelings on stage. It’s often my job to be foolish. By now, I’m pretty used to it. But it is interesting to notice that sense of the anxiety to conform still exists in my trained-to-be-silly brain.

Conversely, I also felt a sense of ridiculous joy rolling around on the floor, in the act itself, and the reaction it was garnering from my scene partners. This helped me double down on my commitment to it.

“If you feel like bailing in an improv scene hit it even harder, instead” – Mick Napier

That I did. And I even brought the rolling around back in a later beat.

All this to say that the shame I felt at the beginning of the scene did not stop me from committing. The inner judgement didn’t close me off and make me comment on the scene instead of fully engage in it. It may have even helped me play harder.

So don’t let shame, embarrassment or self-judgement shut you down. Improv needs you to be open, and it’s hard to do that if you’re worried about pleasing everybody, including a director from Chicago you’ve never even met.

The Improv Niagara Players

2018 Briear in Review

If I’m going to make writing regularly a goal for 2019, which I am, I should kick it off right with an epically long Year in Review post. I wrote one in 2016 and 2017. I might as well keep the tradition alive.

Before kicking off here, it might be important to note that my lighthouse word for 2018 was “PREPARE” – it helped me in my ongoing battle against procrastination and helped keep me more organized with repetitive events that require a set amount of planning each time (ie: producing comedy shows.)

Also to note, all year I kept worrying 2018 couldn’t possibly live up to its predecessor. I went back to Europe in 2017 for the Vimy Centennial, and figured nothing could possibly compare to my time in England and France. Well, it wasn’t Europe, but it turns out I was able to fill the time.

So here is a list of what I consider to be accomplishments in 2018, in a somewhat chronological order, but not quite:

  • I finished filming my first web-series pilot.
  • I finished the first draft of my original sitcom pilot.
  • I taught my first Level B class, as an improv instructor at The Second City Training Centre. (And many Level As.)
  • I started running regular improv drop-in workshops in Niagara.
  • I continued to produce Guess Who’s Coming to Improv? a show that has, for the past 4 years, continued to bring together performers outside the classroom and away from their troupes to help us connect and grow, and to allow us the opportunity to play with our heroes.
  • I continued to produce POPAGANDA to give students of the Second City Training Centre an opportunity to see their teachers do what they do best, without even having to leave the building.
  • My brother Nick and I recorded our 50th episode of The Constant Struggle Podcast.
  • My sketch troupe The Utilidors performed in our 2nd Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival and our show sold out the small theatre space.
  • I got to play in 3 rounds of the Worlds Biggest Improv Tournament with my good friend Ashley Seaman as Jessica Fletcher’s Unexpected Arousal.
  • I took a road trip to Chicago with my best buddy Dina Senior to see the feminist comedy sensation She the People (before I knew they were bringing it to Toronto.)
BFFs by the Bean in Chicago

BFFs by the Bean

  • I submitted a comedy writing packet to a TV show.
  • Niagara Improv became Improv Niagara. We filled out our ranks and and launched our first regular show; the competitive Improv Fallout. It now runs monthly on Friday nights downtown St. Catharines.Improv Fallout Poster

The Improv Niagara Players

  • Myself and the Fantastic Funny Femmes ran two Improv & Mental Health workshops for women in Toronto and Niagara, respectively.
  • I officially resigned from my administrative job.
  • I filmed a series of public health videos for the Niagara Region with Improv Niagara.
  • I was physically in the same room as Rick Moranis.
  • Improv Niagara were featured in a video with the Mayor of Niagara Falls, inviting Ellen Degeneres to visit the city.
  • I was accepted into the Harold Studio program at Bad Dog.
  • I performed at the Del Close Marathon for its last ever year in NYC with Linda and Mark from Chakra Khan.
Chakra Khan at the Del Close Marathon

In NYC at the Del Close Marathon

 

  • … where I also witnessed the UCB4.
UCB 4

The famous UCB 4

  • I signed with an agent and through her, booked actual paid work.
  • I got new headshots taken.
  • I had the pleasure of emceeing Jess & Illy’s wedding.
  • I had the pleasure of working as a stage manager for the wildly successful, hilarious and award-winning Fringe production Generally Hospital.
  • I had a great run with my Assembly longform improv troupe Marlon Rando.
  • The Utilidors performed at the NYC Sketchfest; our 2nd international performance.
  • I performed in the Big City Improv Festival again this year, with 3 wonderful projects, including Improv Niagara, which also performed in the River Arts Festival in Dunnville, ON.
  • My softball team won the Toronto Comedy Softball League championship!

Jokebox Comedy Softball Team

  • Life-wise, (not work-wise) I welcomed a niece to the family. I did very little to accomplish this goal except sit in a waiting room and get yelled at by nurses and prior to that throw a pretty nifty Baby Shower.

My niece Lyra

Looking forward to 2019 with as fresh a face as this little cutie pie’s.

Happy New Year!

We all get Tired

I was so tired before arriving to Improv Niagara’s Holiday show last night. SO tired. I’d been in a meeting most of the day, and had already driven to and from Toronto after an crazy-busy weekend filled with late-night comedy happenings.

I worried I wouldn’t have the energy to bring what I normally bring to our shows.

When I arrived at our space, the cast, consisting of three different troupes working together for the first time, had already begun warming-up together. The room was all set-up. The audience started arriving early. The place was buzzing. People volunteered to help with things they normally avoid like the plague. Everyone were friendly, supportive, positive and wonderful.

I forgot about how tired I was, and had one of the best, warmest and fuzziest improv nights I’ve had in a long time.

 

Student Realisations

I wanted to share this direct quote from a student of mine in this WONDERFUL Level A intensive I had the pleasure of leading this weekend. I think it says a lot about not limiting our own creativity and letting our own ideas shine. Here we go:

Why did I limit myself to (being) a bee? That guy was a fucking spoon!

Frig, I love teaching improv.

What’s a Year?

I want to write a post about how one year ago I embarked upon a one-year-leave from the my nine-to-five day job to see if I could dedicate more of my time to my comedy career.

I can’t tell you if I’m anywhere more ahead in my comedy career than I was just a year ago. But I can tell you I’ve decided to continue spending my time working on it.

I’m not going back to that day job.

 

 

Improv Things

I normally think I’m pretty good at taking notes when it comes to new students. I’m teaching them how to be present in improv scenes, so I make it my goal to be super present when they’re telling me about themselves on the first day.

I went back to check the notes I took last night in class, and realized the notes I wrote for the last student were not especially helpful. I must have been in a hurry to get things started. The question I asked was: “why did you decide to sign up for an improv class?” and the note I took down for her response was: “improv things” and a squiggle.

Nice one Brie. Pretty sure everyone else signed up for “improv things” too.

 

Move Over

I’m in the process of moving again. Completely expected and according to plan, but it’s still hard.

The physical act of moving is hard, but so is the psychological and emotional one. I’ve gotten used to this place and even though I’m really just moving down the street, the idea that I’m already packing up all my things again and relocating is just friggin’ hard.

I just need home base. From there I can jump around, create, and grow. But moving around all the time is like cutting the foundation out from underneath and consequently any growth that had already occurred. Gotta plan more seeds somewhere new.

I know that’s not entirely the case. There are some projects that persist and I’m certainly not starting over from zero, but there’s something of the disturbance of the balance of that foundation – the notion of home, the illusion of a permanent, secure place, cracks the foundation of me; my motivation. I self-sabotage certain elements of my work and myself because I’m just so tired of moving the couches and displacing the space where I have come to do my real good dreaming.