Chasing those magic moments

I love improv so much because of the endless possibilities that can play out each time we perform.

Down the road of any one of those possibilities lies magic waiting to happen. When you find the magic, it's the best feeling in the world.

I was lucky enough to watch A Midsummer Night's Dream this summer by Vancouver's Bard on the Beach. My favourite part of the play is the performance of the love story and tragic death of Pyramus and Thysbee. In this play-within-a-play, we witness the character Nick Bottom (playing Pyramus) milk the hell out of his "death" scene.
It's a scene where he just won't die and goes on and on for 4-5 minutes. The audience is laughing uncontrollably.

It occurred to me after that great performance, those magical 4-5 minutes happen all the time in improv. We usually get one or two really great scenes like that in a show. Sometimes the stars align and there are a whole bunch of those improv magic scenes. And anyone can play Pyramus. We take turns.

That's what we're chasing. We're chasing those moments when the actors on stage are on the same page, knowing who has the focus, playing out juicy moments and the audience is being surprised and delighted.

I've been treated to a number of these improv magic moments this week already.
The amazing Sarah Dawn Pledge caught me in a magical moment of dropping trousers
to end a scene this Wednesday and shared on Instagram.

They are precious because they are rare.
On my way home from corporate training this afternoon, the cabbie asked me what I do.
"I'm an actor", I said. When he asked what kind, I responded "improv".... he looked puzzled... "improv comedy".
"Ok, comedy!  Ok, be funny, make me laugh" he said.

I tried to explain an alphabet scene. He didn't get it.
I told him a joke about a doctor. He thought doctors might be mad if they heard that joke.
Then it was time to pay and I went back out into the rain.

They won't all be magic improv moments.

But with any luck, I'll find some magic with my house team tonight at VTSL, Escalator to Heaven.

Let's keep chasing!

Selling it! The power of confidence

By adopting more confidence when you perform, you'll create more great moments for your fellow performers and for the audience. So... get out there, smile, and Sell It!

Julie Andrews musters her confidence
Last year, I developed a workshop for a Vancouver TheatreSports League drop-in class called Selling It!  In the workshop, we explore ways to be more enthusiastic about characters, choices and ideas.

The objective is to sell your ideas to your fellow actors and to the audience. Make them appealing. Make us all want to buy in!

I posed the question in the workshop - If you sell your ideas with more confidence, will it make for better improv?

The answer? Yes it did.

By purposefully adding confidence, we remembered introductions, laughed more, and created great scenes. Confidence is an amazing ingredient in an improv show and in life.

Playing Harold Hill in The Music Man back in 2001,
I remember learning to Sell It for an entire show.
Although Julie Andrews has a bigger hat than me. 
So try it in your next improv show or presentation - heck, even your next conversation. Collect your courage, and Sell It a bit more. Be more confident about what you say. This helps with having more "attack" in improv shows.

Realize that there is a powerful connection between what you say and how you say it.

Focus on the ability to make the audience believe you by selling your ideas, characters and choices. 

And remember... if you're on stage, someone in the audience is watching you. Sit up and Sell It! 

How to take a note like a pro

I've sat through literally hundreds of "notes" sessions after performing in improv shows.

A "note" is a comment or observation that a colleague or director shares with you after watching you perform, usually in a post-mortem meeting when the show is over.

Notes may be casual, corrective, constructive, or corrosive. A note can enlighten you, infuriate you, inspire you, and discourage you - sometimes all within the same note! Especially when you're coming down from the high of performance. That's why it's a great chance to show what kind of a performer you are - a professional.

To take a note like a pro, here's my two step advice :

1. Say thank you.

2. Stop speaking.

That's it. No arguing, justifying, debating, explaining, reacting, bargaining, re-wording, counter attacking, belittling, yelling, or being sarcastic. 
Just say thank you
It shows that you've heard the note.

Otherwise it turns the note into a little scene between you and that person and the rest of the cast become the jury. You want to stick up for yourself, I get it. You were thinking something during that scene and need to explain, I know. You'd like to ask what to do in that situation again, who wouldn't?

The thing is, the session gets caught up in that dialog and we all start to take a tally of the "good" and "bad" notes being distributed, and stop thinking about the show as a whole.

Say thank you and walk away. Then think to yourself - why did they give me that note? Think of it from their point of view. Think of it from the audience's and your fellow actor's points of view.
Think of it from your experience.
Then either talk about it further once you're calm and have thought about WHAT you'd like to clarify, pledge to try something differently the next time, or toss it out until it comes up again and becomes a theme.

It's something I learned as theatre etiquette from my high school drama teacher, and it's served me well since.

Allow yourself to receive before reacting. Say thank you and then stop speaking.
Your silence will sound professional.

Super Fans - the gasoline of improv

This is a post to say thanks for watching improv.
Fans in the audience are the gasoline of improv and make it all happen. 
Fans witness the moments being created.

Fans at Improv Against Humanity at the Rio

So, thank you for watching improv..... 

You, the new boyfriend/girlfriend. 
You, the befuddled dad.
You, the loyal sister.
You, the interested mom.
You, the too-cool brother. 
You, the visiting cousin. 
You, the enthusiastic new friend. 
You, the trusted old friend. 
You, the old boyfriend/girlfriend. 
You, the odd but friendly person.
You, the odd and unfriendly person.
You, the newbie. 
You, the person who has been to at least half of my shows. 

I am a fan too. I know why you're here. 


My goal is to "be in the now" when I perform on stage, when I teach, and in the biggest moments of my life. These are the lessons I've learned along the way.

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Well, it's been 5 years since I've grown a MO for Movember. For my dad, for my nephews, and for myself.... I'm joining the team...