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Why Every Person Should Take An Improv Class!

(by Paul Burke) The first time I stepped into an improv class was February 2004. I had no idea what to expect. I had always been anxious in new situations, but I figured it was as good a time as any to come out of my shell. I knew that improv was the way to do that… and I was right.

I have been consistently performing improv comedy for the last decade. It’s one of my favorite things to do and my favorite subject to discuss! When we started Blacktop Comedy in Roseville, CA, I wanted to create a place where people could see great improv shows and where people could take a class and learn the benefits of adding more YES into their lives. Improv has made me a stronger and more flexible person, it has helped me in every aspect of my life... So, I want to share with you why everyone can benefit from taking an improv class.

1. Confidence! I’ll admit that it’s pretty scary to walk into a room full of strangers as an adult and do strange improv exercises. That's the idea I push when running warm-ups and games: everybody is in the same boat. You’re not the only one who looks silly– we all do! That’s a great way to look at life in general – we all have struggles, issues, bad days, good days and it’s kind of nice to realize we’re all in this together. It gives you confidence to know that you can handle almost anything.

2. No Fears, Find Fun! Improv pushes you to step outside of your comfort zone. To participate in the class, you have to go on stage but you’re surrounded by supportive classmates and a teacher who will cheer you on and motivate you to find your voice.

3. Say Yes! The philosophy of improv is the idea of “yes, and”. Not only are you saying, “Yes” but you’re also providing more information. By saying yes, you move action forward instead of stalling it. "And" means you add to the original idea. If you're saying no to new ideas... You could be missing out on so much! Basically, why do the same old thing when you're looking for something to do in Sacramento or Roseville Friday or Saturday night? Why not try something new... Say for instance a hilarious comedy club in Roseville. (I'm performing most nights!)

4. Social benefits! Get ready to make a ton of friends you never thought you’d be friends with... Improv attracts all types of people. And your life is going to be better because of it. Folks come from all over Placer, Sacramento, and Yolo County. It’s cool to get together with people outside of your main group of friends and bond over why you started taking improv classes.

5. Think fast! In an improv class, you’re not training to be FUNNY, your humor is natural, but you are training your brain to act faster. It’s a helpful tool for any situation.

6. Basically, improv is awesome. Even if you don’t want to be an actor, improviser, writer or performer – it’s a super beneficial skill to have and it's fun. It encourages you to let go of the fear and be a confident, risk-taking and positive person. All of a sudden, you’ll find yourself solving problems with ease and not turning down new ideas. You’ll have a whole new set of people to call when you want to grab a drink or two. And let's face it, you’re going to fail at some things… improv is going to make it so much easier to deal with. So, do it!

Take a risk, sign up for a class and get ready for a whole new outlook.

Join the fun this weekend at Blacktop Comedy's Intro to Improv Weekend Intensive. Register NOW.

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My Top 5 New-Years Improvisation Improvements

I’ve never really been into making resolutions. I was great at breaking them. Of course, the size and importance determined the length of time that I could keep it up. I still have broken promises to myself from 1988. I finally gave up “resolution setting” as I realized I was continuing to set myself up for rejection year after year. If I wasn’t 125 pounds when I was 18, I sure wasn’t going to hit that now, seeing as I’ve passed 18 by a few years. But I accepted that and strived to be healthy instead. As I’ve turned my life towards goal setting as opposed to resolution setting, I applied that same theory toward my Improvisation. I find it amazing the things I’ve learned in such a short time, and with any skill, find myself frustrated with the areas in which I struggle. Like any art form, it takes a life time to master. When contemplating what I want to see from my own improvisation for the next year, I came up with my personal Top 5 key areas for improvement.

  • Enjoy the Silence - Whether I’m in yoga class or improv, there is nothing as unnerving as silence. Those are supposed to best minutes in yoga. They have certainly produced some of the funniest results in improv. It’s almost a physical obstacle, as if my mouth can’t stay closed and I must break the silence. Therefore, in the coming year, I will work on improving the silence of my work.
  • Give me a Break- Yep, I’m a giggler. I feel like I found something fun and funny and awesome and I want to laugh out loud. But, in the interest of maintaining a professional stage appearance, I’m going to work on not “breaking” on stage and rolling on the floor in giggles. I am currently, “mostly terrible” at holding it together, so my goal is to improve, period.
  • What a Character- One of the most difficult things I have found since beginning my journey into improvisation is finding a character in the scene. Sure it’s easy enough to go out onstage and “be yourself”, or even be a different shade of yourself, but to become a completely different character is sometimes elusive. Recently I completed the Level 3 Improv, and have a lot of material to work with on this matter! We will see what, I mean who, emerges from that venture!
  • We’re All In It Together- Simply put, I’m going to do my best to rescue, help, save, support or whatever needs to be done to ensure that my scene partner(s) feel supported 100% of the time.
  • Pick Up An Accent – Maybe a little out of place here, but this one is on my “100 Things I Want to Do” List. It’s going to get interesting. It might be Venezuelan, it might be Greek, I haven’t quite decided yet. Most likely it will be British as I see this as the best excuse to rewatch all the Dr. Who episodes, starting with the 9th Doctor (war doctor excluded). So for now Allons-y and Geronimo!!!

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Lisa Wildman, a current Blacktop Comedy student, lives with her husband, two teenage girls, two dogs and a cat in the foothills of Placer County. Lisa enjoys Taekwondo, reading, time with her family, staying active, and most recently improv.

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Improv Principles For a Truly Happy Holiday Season

12-5-13 Christmas Shots 003_2073x1382With Thanksgiving behind us, we’re full swing into the holidays now. Racing through December and onto the New Year. Like most people, you’re probably busy racing around town, scouring the internet, party planning or packing for visiting family. It’s easy to get lost in the hustle. BE IN THE MOMENT Enjoy where you are now. We often remind students in workshops that when they’re “in the moment”, they will not worry (since that is about the future) and they will not judge themselves or others (since you can only judge based on the past). The Holidays is a wonderful time to practice being present in the now. There is so much in every moment that you miss if you don’t make time to notice it. The smells, lights and sounds this time of year are worth noticing.

IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU Onstage the goal is make your partner look good. You stop worrying about yourself. The interesting thing is that if they look good, you look good, the audience is amazed and everyone wins. Focusing on someone else is the fastest way to let go of yourself and fall into that “Holiday Spirit”.

THERE IS NO PLAN In life, like on the improv stage, there is no plan. Try as you might even the best laid plans can quickly go awry. Flights being delayed, unexpected weather, unexpected guests can happen to even the most thoughtful person. Knowing that you can’t control it all helps to relax and enjoy the ride regardless of the detours.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS! ---- Betsaida LeBron is the Theater Manager at Blacktop Comedy and a current member of the Long-Form Improv Show: True Story, where a weekly guest tells stories from their past as inspiration for improvised scenes. She also teaches the Intro to Improvisation workshops and loves the life-lessons that students get from “playing fun make-em-ups”.

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Guest Blogger: Yes, And!

It’s hard to believe the number one fear in America is public speaking, when you hear the roar of the crowd from the Thursday Night Playground. They can be quite a boisterous crowd. Circling up for warm up games can present a challenge for space in games like “Cup of Sugar” where there are some pretty hysterical collisions. This is such a brisk crowd! The guessing games are a blur, “Hitchiker” and “Freeze” have lines of people ready to play. Sometimes, this is the fastest two hours of my life.Tuesday Night Playground is a smaller group. We work on long-form improvisation. This type of improv: Henry and Armando are two examples. They both involve scene work that come from one word suggestions, We almost always wind up with a plot and a conclusion. That is if we did it right! It’s hard to remember, that it’s a scary thing to stand in front of people , and not only speak, but perform. I feel honored that I am a person who rarely has stage fright. As a matter of fact, the only time I remember feeling nervous was back in pre-mom life, My job involved me providing management training, Well, I was barely pregnant with my daughter and woke feeling unwell to start. Then I put on my white linen suit, hey ~ be kind, this was the `90`s. I went to work, saw the 200 higher-ups I was training and well…I don’t wear white linen anymore. But I am still unafraid to speak to people. Matter of fact, I feel very comfortable on stage, especially with the people I’ve been there with since the beginning.

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Lisa Wildman lives with her husband, two teenage girls, two dogs and a cat in the foothills of Placer County. Lisa enjoys Taekwondo, reading, time with her family, staying active, and most recently improv. Keep up with her adventures in her personal blog.

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Guest Blogger: Tis' the Season

It was Saturday night; my husband and I had a nice dinner out, and the kids were gone for the night.  As I was lying on the couch in a sushi coma trying not to fall asleep, I realized how exhausted I already was.  No! There were still 34 days until Black Friday, or the official “kick off” to Retail’s holiday season, but for me and my family it had already been well underway.  

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In the Retail world, the planning and beginning stages of the holidays start earlier and earlier each year. For more than 16 years we have been dealing with the trials of parenting, trips out of town and other challenges of the season. And each year I try to handle it better.  Each year that my own children grow older makes that task a little easier. Or so I think, because each year something happens and I snap.  It’s usually something stupid and small, but I punish the world by taking to my house for the rest of the holiday season only to emerge when the holidays have safely passed and inventory is underway.  
But I decided that this year was going to be different. I couldn’t take it anymore.  I couldn’t put my happiness into the hands of a big corporate retailer.  It wasn’t fair to me and it’s certainly not fair to my family. I knew I had to be responsible for my own happiness.  I determined that I must change within myself.   I had made the decision to become a happier person, but really, that’s pretty vague.  
I had no real plan, just an idea of who and how I wanted to be.  I was not the Susie Sunshine type, that would never be my personality. But a long time ago, before life got serious, life was fun.  But since we can’t just chuck our lives and responsibilities out the door I determined I had to let the sunshine in. Enter Blacktop.  I was very unsuspecting of anything, the first show I saw. I just remember giggling like a little girl.  Later I realized that the humor was so much to my taste that I found I wanted to take a class.  I didn’t even tell anyone, including my family, that I attended the Level 1: Intro to Improv.  I just snuck off, made my excuses and went.
Flash forward four months:  Since my involvement with Blacktop, improv, comedy and all the people and events that come with it, my path became clearer.  It was so simple. The key to happiness was laughter.   And laughter at Blacktop was easy.  Whether you are giving it, or receiving there is always something happening to make you smile.  Since I had already been working towards changing my overall attitude towards life and eliminating all the negative sources, I figured I might be in the right place. I took paper to pen as all great plans must be written down. Well, if I don’t write it down, chances are I won’t remember.  My plan entailed that from now on, I would only surround myself with positive people, engage in positive activities and remove  myself from negative people and activities.  This going to be step one.  Am I perfect? No, of course not. Just the other day, someone asked me how I was. When I listened to the playback reel in my head, I realized that I sounded terrible.  I was feeling very negative, adjusting to the rigors of “season”.  It was leaking out in in my conversation. Blech!  Who would want to hang around that?  But, I did some volunteer work, watched a great Blacktop show and got a good dose of comedy and laughter.  Exploding Zombie Turtles! Awesome!!  I was nearly on the floor in hysterics each time one of those little buggers blew. Before I knew it, I was back with my old pact of being happy and hanging with positive people.
So I’m warning you holidays, beware! You will not rain on my parade this year!  And while I seek out the positive, while eliminating the negative (step one!), I can’t wait for the journeys ahead.  Yes, I understand, step one will probably never be over as life is a constantly changing force, but’s that’s okay, as it is the journey and not the destination that matters.

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Lisa Wildman lives with her husband, two teenage girls, two dogs and a cat in the foothills of Placer County. Lisa enjoys Taekwondo, reading, time with her family, staying active, and most recently improv. Keep up with her adventures in her personal blog.

 

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Guest Blogger: The Memory Off It All

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I remember loving art all my life. To this day I still have stacks of drawings I did as a child. When I found performance art I realized I was really in love. My confirmation was my childhood rendition of Golde, in Fiddler on the Roof with my Teen Group at age 15; We went all out.

Then the biggest gig I ever had was being mommy. Not only does that one still happen each and every day, I hear it never actually quite goes away. A never-ending role.  I love it. Continuing through my mommy-hood role, maybe underlying, but always there remained the desire to perform.  I suppose I shoved it under the rug with the dog hair, crumbs and long forgotten Legos, while my children were so busy growing. I knew my time would come. I would return to a stage.

As my family grew, it became time to choose organized sports. That is the natural progression after all. We did eight years of soccer, two years of footsol, four years of softball, and five years and counting of dance. And those were just the ones that stuck.  Lasting the longest and by far my personal favorite, was nine years of taekwondo. This was me and my older daughter. Competition I found was a way to return to a stage: I found love! Well actually I found a love-hate stage relationship. “Being on stage” was actually a euphemism for “competing in a ring”.  Don’t get me wrong, I strongly understand the value and necessity of competition, but humph! Where was my safe place? Where were my warm, loving compliments? Oh no. You either won the medal or you were the first loser.  Sometimes I had wished I was a kid under 10 so I could at least get a participation medal. I can’t tell you how many tears I had shed. But I was getting closer.

I knew there was something out there, but it wasn’t until I had participated a few times that I realized how special and specialized Blacktop’s stage was. Apparently, I only needed the physical act of “jumping up” on the stage. I definitely felt like I was closer. With my children still growing, this is such a perfect step. The workshops allow me to be on a stage and the rest of the students make up one fine audience. We can do some really outrageous, fun stuff and I’ve found my safe place! After all, a room full of people who show up for a variation of the same reasons as me?  Matches made in heaven.

More importantly, is that while we are all having fun, we are all exercising our brains. One of the things they say about being a mother is that you give your children your brain cells in the womb. Ugh, true. Never mind that college education, sometimes my brain seems to have taken a trip to Candy Land and forgotten the way home. That is why I love the simplicity of some of the games we play. Learn in a minute, life time to master. That is if there truly is mastery. One fun such game is the Alphabet Game; two people converse, each next statement starts with the next letter of the alphabet, back and forth. Sound easy? Try it. Which letter did you drop?

 All of improvisation requires you to think and be on your feet. The brain, while not a muscle, still requires constant stimulation to stay active.  If we don’t use it, it will atrophy.  With so many people’s family history involving Alzheimer’s and dementia these days, keeping your mind active is more important than ever.  I exercise my brain daily. You should see the time I took up knitting; requires the left and right brain to work together! It cost me over $200 and three different sessions to make an evening handbag. Ouch. I still haven’t used the damn thing.  I like my new plan better. I like being on stage and I love improvisation: not only is my brain getting a work-out, no one has made me cry in the corner.

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Lisa Wildman lives with her husband, two teenage girls, two dogs and a cat in the foothills of Placer County. Lisa enjoys Taekwondo, reading, time with her family, staying active, and most recently improv. Keep up with her adventures in her personal blog.

 

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Top 5 Reasons to take an Improvised Theater Course (aka Improv)

5.   To think more creatively. In life there is rarely one clear and easy solution, the same is true of improv. Being able to think on your feet, approach tasks from different perspectives and think ‘outside of the box’ will open up your mind and allow more creative flow. 7-1-13 Thursday Playground 024_1554x1036

4.   To be more confident. Improv teaches you how to be comfortable even when you how no idea what might happen next. One of the biggest aspects of improv is learning to trust your gut. You will learn to trust recognize and trust your gut reactions. They are good reactions!8-22-13 Playground 045_1554x1036

3.    To be the best teammate in any situation. Improv is based on collaboration. One person dancing on a hill is mildly entertaining, by 2 or 3 or more… now that’s a movement (check out this TEDtalk). Improv shows you how to support each other to create something bigger than one person could do alone.8-22-13 Playground 034_1554x1036

 2.    To relieve and better deal with stress. Simply put, improv is therapeutic. You are asked to put aside your filters and be honest. You explore and discover characters and worlds that are not your own, but you can learn about yourself in the process.

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 1.    Because it’s Fun! You’ll laugh. A lot. You are given permission to let go of “perfection”. You get to make mistakes, get messy and have fun! Often our cheeks hurt from the fun. And that’s how it’s meant to work.

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Blacktop Comedy offers improv courses for Adults, Teens, and Kids.

With a new course starting each month right now is a great time to sign up for a class.

Email: info@blacktopcomedy or call 916-749-3100

Visit out schedule here for details - See more at: http://www.blacktopcomedy.com/classes/

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