Fallout Triumph

How epic was this Friday’s Improv Fallout?! The house was absolutely packed. There was a line-up to get in. A line-up! People came from out of town (read: another country) to see the show, to laugh with us and to celebrate.

The support from the community in Niagara has been absolutely incredible, and I mean that. Because I know what it’s like to put on a show, and to have it fall flat with low support from community. I know what that feels like when you put on a show that you think people will really enjoy, you assemble a great cast, and the concept for the show is really interesting, then for months, nobody shows.

Because I know what that’s like, and because I know how much the cast of Improv Fallout actually cares about getting up there and doing their best, supporting one another, and putting in the effort, judgement-free and enthusiastic, that’s why I feel a whole year of Improv Fallout is nothing short of a triumph.

That’s why I feel honoured when new audience members come to check us out. That’s why I feel proud when audiences return time and again.

This cast is an ensemble. They have grown together. They lift one another up.

No pretence. No competition. They prioritize learning, growing, friendship and in-so-doing, they make funny, funny magic.

I feel lucky to be a part of it.

Photos by Erica Sherwood. Except the one OF her. Who took that one?

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.

2 Quick Improv Tips for Performers & Producers

In my experience as an improviser, improv instructor and improv producer, there are two things that have just come to my mind; little tidbits of experience I would like to impart onto anyone who might stumble upon this blog seeking profound insight:

  1. It’s probably not a good idea to try to sell drugs at an improv audition. (Like actually, not just in a scene.)
  2. If want a clean show, you should probably let the cast know before they start playing “Sex with Me.” Definitely before they engage in a slo-mo sex scene.

Yours truly.

What is happening rn?

The Other Side of the Table

Another first for ol’ Brie here. This week marks the first time I’ve ever stood behind a table and held auditions of OTHER people for one of my* projects.

(I helped a friend audit once, a little while back, but it doesn’t count because I had nothing else to do with the project. Shout-out to Mishi here!)

Though it wasn’t a ginormous audition for some big-time movie, or some grand Broadway production, it still felt really freakin’ cool! It’s me, scouting for people I don’t know, who may or may not help me build this brand new-project here in Niagara. It’s so fun and exciting! We even had a write-up in the paper about it and everything:Screenshot 2018-01-28 22.46.44.png

We’re going to hold another one in February because we’re still a little short on numbers, so I get to do it all over again next month. Hopefully with a whole bunch of people who are super-interested and excited to entertain the Niagara Region by making fun shit up on the spot.

Gimme a Yay! This is so exciting!

*When I say “my” of course, I mean “our”. “Our” being Dina and I and anyone invested in the existence and success of Improv Niagara.

Why It’s Cool I didn’t Play with Colin Mochrie

I went to Wheel of Improv tonight. It was Wheel’s 6th birthday and Colin Mochrie and Rob Norman were Boomer’s guests.

I wanted to play with Colin because he’s famous. I mean it’s Colin Mochrie for Pete’s sake!

Here’s why playing with Rob was better. Firstly, he’s younger and better looking. (Sorry Colin.)

But for realsies, I feel like when you’re in a scene with Rob Norman, he’s constantly teaching you things while he plays with you. Tonight, I played a character with a real competitive edge, all full of conflict and the likes; Rob’s character was docile; a why-can’t-we-all-get-along? type, which to me was a clear message: why the conflict?! It doesn’t have to be a competition! There do not need to be winners or losers. I don’t always have to be loud-mouthed, high-status bullies.

Maybe this is proof that I was too in my head in the scene tonight. Even if it isn’t, I am taking a mental note to be less antagonistic in my character choices. (Even though I got a pretty big laugh by calling Rob a motherfucker.)

Ah well…Happy Birthday Wheel! Thanks Boomer, for everything you do.

Photo stolen from Wheel of Improv's Twitter.

Photo stolen from Wheel of Improv’s Twitter.

Chest Hair Surprises

I received the nicest compliment yesterday right after Guess Who’s Coming to Improv? from a woman who had tried improv for the very first time that night at the show. She and I had played a scene together during the show. My get for our scene was “chest hair.” It was a short scene, but a striking one nevertheless.

After the show, she told me something along the lines of: “I was so glad to see it was you standing on stage, because I felt like no matter what I did, I could feel safe.”

It was the greatest compliment I’ve received as an improviser.

And to those who were in the audience, it was a hilarious and surprising scene.

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It’s 2015. Knock something off your bucket list.

Guess Who’s Gonna Be Eating Bacon?

This message was posted on the Guess Who’s Coming to Improv? Facebook page today.  It is heartwarming and amazing:

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This message is a greater gift than any host could hope for.  And yet, tonight, Rachel came back to the show and gifted me with two hilarious scenes as well as the following:

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I didn’t really know what to expect when I started hosting #GWCI. I wanted to play more, I wanted others to have the opportunity to play more, and I wanted people from all levels of the learning spectrum to mingle and create magic together.

I certainly never in the process ever expected BACON!

These are life’s wonderful little gifts.

Thank you Rachel!