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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: The Memory Off It All

taekwondo

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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Guest Blogger: Improvisers are Great Humans

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In writing this segment of Yes, And! I found I was a bit perplexed. There were so many great things about Improvisation, how could I pick only one as my next topic? I thought about all the time spent in the Playgrounds and Workshops and realized that, as always, I had too much to say.  After all, how do you sum up an entire month of Tuesday Playgrounds, working on what’s called a Henry, in just one sentence? So imagine this: I’m one character, playing with two different people, each playing one character, all of us playing our same character in two different scenes.  Challenging, right? Speaking for myself, only at first, but once I got the hang of it, they were fun, flowed well, and led to their own conclusions.  But that hasn't been all we've learned! While we have worked on different material every time and characters and characteristics develop every time, the people with whom we play don’t change. The names and faces may change week to week, but the underlying sincerity of those people has not.  Maybe it’s the fact that everyone tries so hard to get along with everyone else. We need to be nice, polite and sincere for this whole Improvisation thing to work. In other words we need to work and play well with others. In fact, even from my novice perspe
ctive I can see that the longer and more often we play together, the better our scenes become. One word you hear a lot of is mindset. When everyone is on the same page mentally scenes can just flow. It’s communication at its silent finest. But how did they, you or I get to be such great improvisers? I went searching for the answer and I found the answers by research and within myself as I determined that a great improviser exhibits the same traits as great human being. Since I know how I like my humans (crunchy and with ketchup).

 

Positive Traits of Great Improvisers and Great Humans
  • Whether improviser or human, I think the best thing is to listen to others.  The importance of this was personally felt by me, when the green football hit me in the head while somebody yelled lasagna, because I stopped paying attention during warm up games.
  • A great improviser and human, Yes Ands!, on stage and in life no matter what your partner (me) asks. In a recent Playground, I was doing a scene and asked my partner if he wanted to rain dance. He went with it and it turned into a really enjoyable scene involving Greek Mythology (and giggles!).
  • I believe as great improvisers and humans we all need to work together. I can’t think of one particular example, but more like 1000.  We are all grown-ups, most of us, but if you’re old enough to be in here, you’re old enough to follow the rules. We are all expected to play well together and take turns, just like in kindergarten.
  • I believe a great improviser/human radiates good energy. We’re not having kumbaya circles, but no one has yet to make me cry.  As a matter of fact, I have yet to not be laughing and in a great mood at the end of the night.
  • A great improviser and human should be silly. Perhaps I picked this up from being a stay-at-home mom and playing with kids as they've grown up, but I've always loved silly. And as long as I live I will never forget watching a show of Yadda Yadda Yadda that involved day-old birthday cake being eaten off the floor by party guests who had over stayed their welcome. It was actually at this moment that I realized I can do this! It wasn't the day-old birthday cake.  It was the presentation and collaboration of the improvisers that brought back memories from my own younger years. And they were funny.
  • Great improvisers and humans make their partners look good. Whether on stage or in life, it is our job to make our partner shine and prove to the world that we’re in this together. For in the end, that may be all we have.

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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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The Playground....Now Twice a Week

 

Wow! The Playground has grown.....quickly! Every week the Playground has grown in size, and we're so excited to see so many  from Roseville, Rocklin, Auburn, and even Sacramento spending their nights laughing, and having fun at Blacktop! We're all about having fun, so Blacktop Comedy is now offering The Playground: Improv for Everyone, Thursdays AND Sundays!

Join us Thursdays and Sundays for improv games and general awesomeness! Interest in becming a better comedian, actor, or public speaker? Need more confidence? Join a very supportive and encouraging group of improvisers every week at The Playground: Improv for Everyone! A chance for new and expereicned improvisers to work together, and learn improv games you would see on TV, like Whose Line is it Anyway? WARNING: You will make friends and laugh a lot. Be OK with that. 

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