Improv Wisdom: Improv Teams

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Improv Wisdom: Improv Teams

How do you know which improv team to perform with? Everyone is asking to perform with you! Dealing with a flood of calls from New York, Chicago, LA? How can you manage all of this?!

We have the answer!

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Camp Fire Relief Fundraiser

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Camp Fire Relief Fundraiser

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Every day at Blacktop, we host classes, or shows, or rehearsals, we do something that relies on working together.  Most of what we do is comprised of improvisational comedy, which is unscripted theater made up on the spot.  The tenets of improv involve support and agreement, with your scene partner or team.   And as a team, class, or our overall community, we practice this emotional, mental, playful support constantly.  Whether it’s a warm-up, an exercise, or a game the key is I’ve got your back and you’ve got mine.   It’s all about teamwork.   Without a partner or a team in improv, the show means nothing, there is no one key player or character in an improv show.   It can’t work unless everyone is on board.

I’ve seen games or shows work out even if everyone wasn’t on the teamwork page, but it took longer than necessary. And good improv (you’ll know it when you see it), happens more often when the players agree (even if it appears their characters are disagreeing).

I’ve been fortunate enough to get in a little teaching, take some amazing workshops, and see some incredible shows.  I still get stage fright. Like, hardcore stage fright.  I still worry if I will be able to contribute and make the right move at the right time.  Sometimes I need to remind myself still, that it isn’t about me, it’s about what we are going to do on stage together.

Lesson Learned Part One: It isn’t about me.

Each year Blacktop Comedy does a fall fundraiser, raising material goods and monetary donations to a local charity.   This year as we were planning, the Camp Fire broke out. It’s a staggering tragedy that effects countless lives. It’s a disaster. Every time you turn on the news, or read an article you’re struck by the mounting losses. I’m also struck by the sense of community, and peoples willingness to come together, and help one another.

Leason Learned Part Two: It’s about us.

We want to help. And, what we do is make people laugh. We’re taking that skill, and turning it into a fundraiser for the Camp Fire relief efforts.

We at Blacktop will be hosting a fundraiser comedy show on Friday, November 30th at 8pm.  It will be a variety show of stand-up, sketch, and improv comedy.  We’ll have stand-up comedy by Kelley Nicole, Cristian Amaral, and Syndey Roll.  The sketch writing and talents of Jay Miller and Kevin Scott Brown. Featuring performances by Jordan Mata and Austin Jansma.  Improv performances by Blacktop’s incredible house team of Paul Burke, improv veterans Dustin Seidler and Troy Wallis, as well as Shoana Hunt and myself (Ciara Cumiskey).  I am immensely thankful to all the comics, volunteers, and Blacktop Comedy donating their time and efforts.

Proceeds from the show will benefit the North Valley Community Foundation Camp Fire Relief Fund.  The NVCF is based in Chico and distributes grants to multiple causes affected by the fire ranging from churches, to veterans, to animals, and shelters in the area.

We are not collecting material donations at this event, as most organizations are requesting monetary donations first.  If you would like to donate directly to the NVCF for a tax-deductible donation you can donate here:   www.nvcf.org


If you’re interested in volunteering you can work with Caring Choices: www.caring-choices.org/


They will be needing volunteers in the coming weeks and months to facilitate recovery.

We thank you in advance for support of your and our community.  We look forward to seeing you at the show, around town, and just living life.  

Thank you for being part of community and helping out those in need! We all have the opportunity to help.

Camp Fire Relief Comedy Fundraiser
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Teen Slasher Cast Interview

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Teen Slasher Cast Interview

Last month we brought Teen Slasher back for it’s 8th season. This time Teen Slasher took the Rocklin audience to space!

Lots of murder, mayhem, and laughs ensued. I had a chance to sit down with the cast and ask them some questions about the performance, preparation, and favorite moments.

A lot of work goes into this improvised genre comedy! If you would like to see some pictures and videos from the show be sure to check out our Instagram.

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What was your favorite kill during Teen Slasher?

Kevin:  It wasn't really a kill, but Troy's character during the first show was badly injured. He wasn't dead, so he crawled onto the stage, dragging himself across, and did it several time during the show and it killed me each time.

Dustin:  My favorite kill during teen slasher was a failed kill. Troys character was almost killed but never died and kept coming back crawling and dragging himself across stage. It was such a fun bit.

Jay:  That’s a tough one. We did one show where I was turned into a rat-man hybrid by Dustin’s character. I ended up eating Austin while Kevin (who was amazing on lights and sound) activated the blacklight strobe. Austin’s character was likeable and sympathetic, which made it a genuinely terrifying and emotional moment in which a character’s death truly mattered. It felt like a real, heart wrenching moment in a good movie and it stuck with me because of that

Troy:  In rehearsal we had an alien that would just make people explode.
So we had fun just bringing on random characters that would just be there to explode.

Sydney:  Oh, well during one of our rehearsals someone killed a monster with a giant condom.

Which has been your favorite character to perform and why?


Kevin:  While I wasn't a character this year, but I have done it in the past. I remember playing Chad, a jock, which was different for me since I am such a nerdy person in real life. It was a lot of fun to emulate that kind of person and confidence.  

Dustin:  My favorite character to play was Jays son that turned evil. It was a lot of fun playing with the transformation of the kid as he turned bad. I had a blast playing with the voice bouncing back and forth between sweet and innocent to possessed and evil.

Jay:  Les Talent was a joy. I rarely play villains or jerks, so playing an egomaniacal space captain on the verge of a psychotic break was a nice change of pace. Les ended up being the killer in that particular show, so I had the chance to get out of my comfort zone with a character.

Troy:  In rehearsal again I played an alien who could no longer feel emotions but

had them before. He had to make a choice to lose emotions and live or just die. It was interesting to see how that character felt about himself and other people after the incident that left him emotionless.

Sydney:  I have one character and he is a very old man. He's fun, cause he's sassy and usually has a storied past.

Tips for anyone looking to use fake blood?


Kevin:  If you get in on your clothes, make sure to NOT dry it in the dryer until the stain is completely gone. If you are not careful, the dryer can heat press the stain and it will never come out. Also, avoid getting it in your mouth.

Dustin:  Tips for using fake blood would be practice using it  lots before the show. I would also recommend finding fun ways to deliver the fake blood. My favorite was the water gun filled with fake blood.

Jay:  There are numerous types/brands of fake blood. Understand how yours works. If you’re spilling it (as opposed to using it as costume makeup), practice with it and understand how it sprays, whether it stains, etc.

Troy:  Practice Practice Practice. Know your blood capabilities and limitations. Have fun!

Sydney:  Either take careful precaution and... post-caution (?), or just be prepared to have everything covered in blood for the rest of all time.


What surprised you during your run of Teen Slasher?


Kevin:  The biggest surprise is was how quickly the cast was able to come together and put on an amazing show. We had less than 20 days from our first rehearsal to our first show. They all worked so hard and showed real passion.

Dustin:  What surprised me the most was how slippery the stage got with the fake blood. At moments I felt like a was doing blood ice capades.  

Jay:  No matter how many times I perform in Teen Slasher (this is my 6th year), the audience turnout never ceases to amaze me. Despite loving the genre, seeing full houses for every show was a huge surprise. Maybe October just gets people in the mood to see some bloodshed.

Troy:  Putting the Teen Slasher Genre into space was a more challenging than I thought it would be.  There were many ways to introduce a "killer". Rogue Alien on board. Or some biological mishap that changed crew members.  With no defined killer the story line could get a little confusing.

Sydney:  If you buy white pants from a thrift store, about 90% of what you find will be 10+ years old.


What's one tip you would give another improviser interested in genre work?

Kevin:  I would say there is a very delicate balance when doing genre work. It takes both researching the genre and experimentation. You need to be both truthful to the source material but also make it your own.

Dustin:  Genre work is a lot of fun. I would recommend anyone interested in working on genre work start by watching and researching the genre they want to perform. Make the plot simple and easy to follow. Focus most on the characters and relationship in the story they are most important.

Jay:  First, make sure you understand how to tell a story. Being a good storyteller will make any genre show easier. Second, understand your genre. Read it, watch it and absorb it as much as you can. Recognizing the tropes that pop up in your chosen genre means you can take utilize them to tell your story well.

Troy:  Focus on characters not plot. Keep it simple. Foreshadowing can be really fun.   Example: setting up rooms with weapons or different ways someone could die. Then using those things later in the show.

Sydney:  Do your research! Genre work is the same as anything else really, you just have to know what you're drawing from.


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How a Kill Room in Rocklin Renewed My Improv Feels

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How a Kill Room in Rocklin Renewed My Improv Feels

  The cast of TEEN SLASHER 8: INSPACE!

The cast of TEEN SLASHER 8: INSPACE!

Burnout happens. Nothing is immune! Even passions can feel like more work than joy.

I was there in Burnout City (not Burnout Paradise...which is a really fun game! Go download it on XBox...they just released a remastered version...and it sure is purty. I think it's exclusively on XBox. If it's on PS4, I apologize. I have no allegiance to XBox. Just go experience the game...but after reading the rest of this post of course. I think you'll enjoy it...the post...and the game….but let’s focus on the post right now. Onward!)

And, damn, the population always feels like one, right? When you feel burnout it feels like the world is moving at a different speed, and you wish you were there, but you don't know how to feel that again. All around me are people loving improv excited to perform, and here I am sitting there thinking, "I don't feel the spark." I wanted to be excited, I wanted to feel passionate, but you can't force it. At least, I discovered you can't force it. When you "attempt" to get passionate again, and it doesn't work, you just slide further down into burnout and disappointment.

And, then, a wonderful thing happened! I walked onto the Teen Slasher set! I felt so warm, and fuzzy, and excited. The team had transformed the theater into a giant tarp covered kill room. It felt like walking into an episode of Dexter. The theater stage was quarantined with tarps.

Jay, Kevin, Sydney, Dustin, Troy and Austin had worked hours on designing the space for a very special two night, blood-soaked spectacle called Teen Slasher 8! Kevin and Jay co-directed this years show, and together with the cast developed the vision. They worked together, and came up with something special.This year Teen Slasher takes the bloody good time to space. Like any good franchise, eventually, you put that series in deep space.. All the greats do it! Halloween. Leprechaun. Jason. Dracula Hollywood have even tossed some Killer Klowns into space!

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When I entered the theater I was awestruck.

And...

...more then awe. I felt that spark, I felt that joy. I felt that, "wow. We can do anything in improv," feeling. You never know when it hits, but you never forget when it does. I’ve felt that way a few times. The first time was when I discovered long form improv. It was in San Francisco, and the team was Revolving Madness (they no longer perform...but damn they were fun). I remember walking away from that show saying, "you can do that?! That was amazing." That's how I felt walking onto the set of our Teen Slasher show, "this is beautiful, and amazing."

You can walk onto the set too, and feel all the feels. And, who doesn’t want to feel all the feels? But, your chance to feel the feels is fleeting!

Halloween, is your final chance.

You will laugh, you will be sprayed with blood*, and you will realize just some of the beautiful things you can do with improv. Will you be inspired? Maybe. Will you laugh? Definitely! Will you score some free candy at the box office on your way in? Of course! It's Halloween! Let's enjoy a sugar high together and watch improv comedy survival horror!





*We help you guard against that blood splatter by offering you the best in high-tech, space-age ponchos. Working closely with NASA**  and the CIA***, Blacktop has created a marvel in protective gear.

"But, Paul," you begin, "are these just garbage bags?"

"Garbage bags with 3 holes cut in them! That's top-shelf tech."

**NASA: Nurturing And Sassy Animals

***CIA: Collective of Interesting Apples

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Stand Up in Drag

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Stand Up in Drag

Join us at STAND UP IN DRAG tonight at 8pm!

A night of drag and all proceeds go to Stand Up Placer! They do great things, and help people in need. Want to learn more? You can!

It just so happens the incredible organizer of tonight’s Stand Up for Drag, Kyle Ketsdever, answered some questions.

Read, enjoy, and we’ll see you tonight!

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Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions Kyle. Can you let everyone know what Stand Up Placer offers the local community?


Stand Up Placer is a local non-profit agency that assists survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking in Placer County. We offer free services to all survivors of DV/SA/HT regardless of sex, gender, race, ethnicity, age, class, religion, sexual or romantic orientation. Survivors of all backgrounds are able to access our services free of cost. Our services include a 24/7 Crisis Line (1.800.575.5352), a 90-day emergency shelter, transitional housing programs, financial coaching, legal services including assistance with restraining orders, and therapy services (both one-on-one and support groups).

How long have you been with Stand Up Placer?

I have been with Stand Up Placer since June of 2017 and I have loved every minute of it. I feel so lucky to be growing with an agency that assists so many people in our community. It is also incredible to be a part of such a supportive and accepting agency that is willing to put on an event like Stand Up in Drag.

What do you hope people learn tomorrow at Stand Up in Drag?

I hope that people leave realizing that there are survivors in the LGBTQ+ community and that there are specific forms of abuse that are used within and against this community. At the same time, I really hope people also just have a lot of fun and leave with a new love for drag as well. A lot of awareness events can be very heavy and emotional, so we wanted to do something more lighthearted and fun to culminate Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

 
A drag show to help raise awareness is such a fantastic idea! Where did you come up with it?

Drag has become a big part of my life, both as an observer and as a performer, so I think it's just naturally starting to follow me wherever I go. The benefit show for Sierra College is actually where I started drag for the first time, so for me drag has always been tied in with promoting a cause. I wish I could take credit for the idea, but two of my co-workers actually came up with it and thought it sounded like something I should put together. I took the idea and ran with it! And I'm so thankful that there are amazing venues like Blacktop Comedy who are so down to support the cause as well!

What makes a drag show fun?

They just are! It's so hard to describe. For me, I think it totally depends on the drag performers. Drag is fun! And if the performer is having a great time, that translates to the audience having a great time. Drag is so liberating, freeing from standards and expectations, that I think it it's hard not to enjoy it. 

What was the best Drag show you have ever seen?

I think the best would have to be when I saw Alaska 5000 perform at Badlands. It was the first show I got to see once I turned 21 and could get into clubs. It was also my first time seeing a RuPaul's Drag Race girl live. I did the meet and greet after the show and it was just such a fun time. So I think that one definitely holds a place in my heart. I love seeing local girls perform as well though! The local queens in the Sacramento area have such amazing talent and I love to go see them perform too!

What are you most excited about for tomorrow's drag show?
I'm very excited to be collaborating with some amazing local performers. I think that there is going to be a lot of heart in that room and a lot of people who genuinely care. Drag has its roots in liberation movements and drag queens were seen as community leaders and organizers. I think it's great to have performers that genuinely care about a cause and want to use their talents to spread light and shine awareness on an issue. To me, drag is social justice, and this really illuminates that. 

If someone wants to help, but can't make the show tomorrow, how can they get involved with Stand Up Placer?

There are tons of ways to get involved. They can follow our Facebook page to stay up to date with other events that we are doing. If they are interested in volunteering, they can e-mail volunteercoordinator@standupplacer.org. There are tons of ways to volunteer, whether directly with survivors or otherwise. Our thrift store is always in need of volunteers to help out with all of the amazing donations we receive. With the holidays coming up, we're starting to gear up for our holiday toy drive - so donating to that is another incredible way to get involved.

If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

I always wrack my brain on this question - there's so many great options. But for the sake of drag I would have to say the ability to change my appearance. It can take quite a while to get into full drag and a superpower to help out with that would be amazing! 

What's something you know now, that you wish you knew 10 years ago? 

I wish ten years ago I knew that I would grow up to be doing drag! I think it would have answered a lot of the questions that I had as a 14 year old and definitely helped me bust down some closet doors sooner.

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Improv and Hiking, It’s Not Just for Adults Without Driver’s Licenses

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Improv and Hiking, It’s Not Just for Adults Without Driver’s Licenses

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Blacktop Comedy- Comedy Theater and Event Venue

Guest Post today from Sally Perkins

“The first thing you realize when you go hiking is that it’s a mistake. We’re not walking anywhere in particular. There’s not at the end of the trail, a bar or pub or cheese fries, it’s just walking”. Jim Gaffigan, the comedian most famous for his laziness and food jokes, has turned to an anti-hiking mantra – “I’m an adult, I have a driver’s license”. But what if you’re on a date and she suggests going for a hike? Well here’s how you can combine your love of comedy with your date’s love for the great outdoors.

Improv Games for Your Hike

What better way to show your charming and funny side, then taking part in some improv games on your hike. It’ll distract your date from realizing you’re sweating profusely, and distract you from the fact that you've chosen to go on a hiking date

·        The Hitch Hiker: Pretend to be a hitch hiker, hiking a ride. One of you can be the hitch hiker with a particular character tick or emotion which the other, the driver, then takes over. Since you’ll be outdoors, you can even use props from the hike or draw from your environment.

·        The Blind Date Show: This is a very typical improv game, but could be great for a first date. Each of you can create a persona and take turns asking questions of your date to figure out what the persona is.

·        Human Props: One of you can use the other as a prop to act out a situation. Since you’re outdoors, maybe try a situation such as being stranded in the woods, camping, or escaping a bear.

·        Two Realities: Each of you creates your own world with a location, character, and time. Without telling each other, establish your worlds and try to guess what they are. Once you figure it out, add elements of each world together to create a cohesive story.  

What to Bring

Since it’s a date, you should probably be prepared. According to Jim Gaffigan, everyone these days seems to be dressed up as if there could be an impromptu hike at a moment’s notice. But if this isn’t you, it’s important you dress for the part. Wear moisture-wicker clothing to help you stay cool so that you aren’t slick with sweat when you initiate the cuddle sesh. You may also want to bring snacks or a picnic to play out the date. Your snack basket can also be a great source of props for any improv exercises or games. You will seem like a romantic, and you’ll have more material to work with.

With these tools and activities, you won’t even notice you’re on a hike, and your date will be wooed by your comedic performance. Hiking doesn’t have to be just for people that don’t have driver’s licenses. 

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What's It's Like To Be In Love . . . With Improv

Today's guest blogger is Meggan Johnson Hyde. Meggan is a Sacramento improviser and main-stage performer at Blacktop Comedy. You can see Meggan in Your F@#$%! Up Relationship, Squeaky Clean: Family Friendly Comedy, and the upcoming Teen Slasher

I remember the first time I met you, Improv. It truly was love at first sight. While I'm typically somewhat of a wallflower when I'm surrounded by unfamiliar faces, you were so warm and welcoming that I found myself jumping right into the conversation.
"Hi! My name is Meggan, and I like to do this!"


I flirted with you during some warm-up games, casually noticing how everyone around you was having such a great time. But then, you took to the stage and that's when I knew my life would never be the same. You had the cool factor of the jock with the accessibility of the student council president. I sat back and watched you in action for a while, completely in awe of how supportive and encouraging you were. Finally, though my heart was racing, I shot my shaky hand up in the air and asked to join you onstage. Suddenly, there we were. Together. Laughing and having the best time of our lives. It all came together so easily. I was in love, and I wanted to shout it from the mountain tops!
I found myself wanting to be with you all the time. I never missed an opportunity to be with you onstage. I took all the classes and workshops that I could, so as to get to know you better. I read books and listened to podcasts by people who had known you for decades. The more I learned about you, the more I found wonderful and new aspects about you to be discovered. Over the next few months I did everything I could to fill my brain with all the knowledge about you that would fit.


That's when it happened. Everything had seemed so easy in the beginning. Every time we were together we would laugh and play, and it had all seemed so effortless. But suddenly, things were . . . awkward. Now, any time we got together all I could think about was every single thing I was doing wrong. I could barely even talk to you anymore. Standing onstage together, I was completely frozen.


That was a defining moment for us. It would have been so easy for me to walk away, right then and there - to write you off as being too complicated and just call it quits. But I couldn't let you go. I confided in a good friend/mentor, one who had known you for a very long time. He told me that what I was going through was totally normal. In fact, it happens a lot. He called it a valley, and he encouraged me to keep trudging through it. Because eventually, I'd find myself at the top of another mountain with you. My friend also warned me that there would be other valleys. And he was right. Because every good relationship has mountains and valleys. And you, my Beloved Improv, are worth every one.

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