Rainbow Connection

Repost from my blog entry on http://www.thetorchtheatre.com/rainbow-connection/

What is amazing about improv is that it brings people together from all walks of life. You meet people that you may not have met otherwise. It is these creatures and their other interests that help connect you. It is what helps you discover new characters on stage, as well as yourself, that you didn’t think you had in you.

For me, improv has helped me become a better marathon runner. I know it sounds like that those two don’t go together, but for me it does. I started running seriously around the same time I started improv in 2012. Towards the end of 2011, which was the worst year for me emotionally, I decided I needed to change. Some might describe it as a quarter life crisis and others depression, but the channel needed to be changed as I was unhappy with where the story of my life was going. I decided to try new things in the new year, two of which were running and improv.

Running long distances is probably the worst/best time for me. I curse myself as I run, but crave it most of all. This last weekend, my cousin Lindsey and I did the Graffiti Run, a fun & colorful 5k. While Lindsey doesn’t run, it was one of the most fun things we have done together in Chicago and just life in general. It allowed us to bond, get dirty, and have fun.

It is the same bond, dirtiness, and fun that I love about improv. And while different in many ways, running and improv have taught me three thing:.

Stay Committed – Let me not be the first to say waking up at 5am sucks, especially when you stayed up late the night before watching Scandal. However, running events start early in the morning most of the time. Your body has to be ready, awake, and in the moment with the race or you will injure yourself. While most improvisors are not up that early, it is the same mentality that you bring to your craft and a show. While we make up most of what we do, if we stop listening or we don’t react, we lose the scene. If we don’t work on our improv muscles and strive for better work, we become like stale bread.

Be true to yourself (or your character) – Unless you are Barney from How I Met Your Mother, you cannot just get up and run a marathon. Your body knows you are lying and will punish you for it. In improv, if you commit to being a crazy French maid don’t then deny ever being one on stage. You take yourself and the audience out of this reality.

Wear sensible shoes as heels and flip flops will prevent you from going the distances – A better title for this should be don’t limit yourself and don’t wear clothing that will hinder what you will do. Sure, I can run in 6 inch heels … not far, but I can. And sure, I can wear a gorgeous ball gown on stage. However, you will then have players like Andrew Bernier folding you in half like a pretzel on stage.

The point of this fashion rant is to say don’t limit yourself. With improv and running, it is going to take you out of your comfort zone — let it. It is alright to be characters you love and characters you cannot stand in real life. In some way or fashion, you can find an element of yourself you maybe didn’t know was there.

You also get to learn more about others in this limitless world. In the past month-ish, my Level One teacher Matt Higbee has asked us to bring a new object each week that represents us as individuals. We then put them in a trash bag and pull out something new that represents other people in the class and get to learn about them. In this exchange, I have gotten the book Good Omens, a Southwest traveling magazine, and the horrific movie The Little Black Book. It is different and fun to learn about the other characters in my class. It is also fun having them learn about my character through the book Man Up, Women’s Running Magazine, and My Big Fat Greek Wedding (my Mexican and Jewish family in a nutshell; also, why I need to run as we LOVE to eat).

I enjoy my weird and fun rainbow connection of the two and am forever grateful for these two activities. They helped me get out of a dark place, and pushed me to Chicago.

What if you feared nothing?

Repost from my blog entry on http://www.thetorchtheatre.com/fear-nothing/

As kids, we do not fear anything. We do not have any hang ups, the post man hasn’t dropped off the baggage yet, and our issues are hopefully few and far between. As adults, we fear random things like mustard and come with baggage that is marked with a heavy sticker. As adults, we are told to keep your crazy to yourself, blend in, and be normal like everyone else.

It is the opposite of what we’re told to do as improvisors. We are told to get out of our heads, be real, and be in the moment. Do we actually do it? Uh, no. I have been in many of my shows where I was not in the moment.

In our Level 5 class with Bob Fisher, he asked us how many minutes we’re actually involved in our show? As a class, we wanted to be answer, the whole thing, but realistically, it’s maybe 10 to 12 minutes of a 25 minute piece. He then asked, What would happen if you were involved with the whole show from listening to sound effects to acting?

What would your show become?

The comedy is in the truth according to iO’s theory, and if we are not in the moment, you won’t discover it. Our lives are hysterical; we just don’t tap into it because it can seem too bland. But iO, through my classes and the shows I’ve seen, has emphasized that it isn’t. The fear of showing yourself is what is boring. Being told this has taken my improv to another level. Seeing it applied well has taken it further, especially with Blessing and Improvised Shakespeare — both which I have seen multiple times.

For those at home who may not know what Blessing is, it is a two-person improv show with Blaine Swen and Susan Messing. Their setup is simple, but I believed every character they portrayed even down to the way Messing ate a fun-sized Snicker bar. I am slightly biased as I have been a fan of Messing before I came to Chicago and she is one of my teachers, but whatever her secret is, after seeing Blessing, I want to steal it.

Improvised Shakespeare … there are no words for how amazing this is. It is about a 45 minute show done in the style of Shakespeare. And while the high schooler in me would like run far, far away from it, it is done so well with imagination and character choices that you become a part of the world and find some similarities. At many points, I was crying from laughing so hard.

While very different shows, they are similar in that some of the best moments were not the one-line joke, but the human experience. It is raw and scary, but you love watching great improv because you can relate. Yes, my boyfriend and I have had this fight. Did I throw a shoe at him? No, but I thought about it. You hate the character Karen because she was a witch to Suzy. Why such strong emotions for people you just met? Because everyone has a Karen in their life, however you are told not to express that in the real world. But, on stage, please bring the baggage and salt.

It is such a great feeling to see something you love so much done so well. It is something to strive for and discover your truth.

What if you feared nothing?