Saturday, February 15, 2014

#improv love

@MadeUpTheatre @ENDGAMES_IMPROV @ImprovUtopia ... THANKS!

Two(-ish) weeks ago, January 31 marked the beginning of my 4th year continuing with improv, hanging with different improv communities, embracing (or not) improvisers' philosophies, mapping improv to other parts of my life, and drinking beer with fellow improvisers and friends. What have a learned? HAVE F@#%ING FUN!

Long Walk Reminiscing ... 

Oh the improv memories of past (and more to come) ... from blog posts labeled improv, photos and events, photos STILL in Dropbox, and chats with friends, I figured it's a good time to reminisce a little about my unexpected love of improv and the improv community. While not everything is listed, here are a few highlights and tidbits -
- and I am looking forward to more memories being created in the coming years.

First Ever Class 
On January 26, 2011, I signed up for a Made Up Theatre improv class, which was Made Up Theatre's (MUT's) very first class - Level A. This was after MUT's formal grand opening on January 2011. I came across a local newspaper which had an article about MUT offering classes. Since then, I have pretty much taken all their class offerings - Level A-C, then added Level D & E, then some rinse/repeat ... well, it's not about the naming of the levels but the content and teachings of the class. MUT has been my gateway to short form, long form, and games.

First Ever Show
June 11, 2011 was the grad show of MUT's Level B - and thus, my first time performing improv. With just six of us, the first part of our show was channel surfing and the second part was montage -
June 11, 2011 - after my first improv show
Birth of a Drinking Game ... Ask me about how the suggestion SOCKS became a drinking game. (Yes, really!)

- and then throughout the rest of 2011, I had 3 more grad shows in 2011. Given the MUT guys' background in games, in 2012 MUT offered game type fun - several of the games we learned listed in this blog post.
"A-B-C-B" says MUT Bobby!
yes, singing improv games!
Gimme music and singing ... I discovered that I loves me the music/singing based games. I may not be the best, but I have fun!

The Playground Improv Jam
Late last year, MUT started The Playground - a combo of games, short, and long form improv. The jam is hosted by MUT's owners. Although The Playground is wrapping up in mid-March, I was at a recent record attendance jam and then a fun get-to-know afterwards at a nearby coffee house.
at The Playground on Jan 23
The Playground has been a great way to meet other MUT students, to meet those new to MUT and in the area, and to contribute to building the improv community in the East Bay/South Bay.

Leadership Conference in Indianapolis
What does a leadership conference have to do with improv? Read on.

During my Level C MUT improv class, we were assigned to read Truth in Comedy: The Manual of Improvisation. Strewn throughout this book are tips for improvisers such as . . .
LISTEN ... be honest . connections cannot be avoided . respect choices made by others . accept and build . avoid preconceived notions . stay in the moment . nothing is ignored . there is no such thing as a mistake . welcome the silences . there is action in thought . reflect each other's ideas 
. . . and it turns out, similar characteristics and philosophies - unrelated to improv - were strewn throughout a leadership course I was taking. In April 2011 I began a course - Foundations of Servant Leadership - with the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership (GCSL). For me, I saw how engaging the Servant-Leader philosophies was not too different from practices of an improviser.
LISTENING ... empathy . awareness . persuasion . conceptualization . foresight . stewardship . building community . commitment to the growth of people . self-awareness . changing the pyramid . developing your colleagues . coaching, not controlling . unleashing the energy and intelligence of others 
My second course with GCSL - Applying Key Practices of Servant Leadership - is when I virtually met Jeff Miller, the GCSL instructor. In October 2012, we submitted a proposed conference presentation. Jeff and I would later present at GCSL's 2013 annual conference, our session titled - Who's a Servant-Leader Anyway? - in Indianapolis, Indiana.

getting ready to do a "STATUS" exercise
Improv Warm-Ups, Games, and Encouragement ... Our virgin voyage of the conference session was fun and a bit different with our incorporating improv warm-ups and games, while also layering the connection to servant-leader practices. In fact, after the presentation, I was slipped the following kind note and spent some time talking with Kim afterwards.

Note of encouragement from
Who's a Servant-Leader Anyway?
conference session attendee Kim.
And thanks to Jeff for his encouragement of pulling a conference session idea together.

after the 2013 GCSL conference
hanging with Jeff Miller and colleagues
The point is - improv feeds my servant-leader related interests - and go figure ... I can share and teach servant leadership through improv. And my love affair continues.

Saturday San Francisco Straddling
In September 2012, I began taking classes with EndGames Improv. After I received an email that year in July from MUT about not being chosen as part of their first student performance group, included in the email was - 
"Another round of invitations will be sent out around November and every 3-4 months after that, so keep up with your improv, take classes (even outside of MUT), see shows, and you will have another shot to join the Performance Group."
So I did so, and I found EndGames.

Short version - I started taking classes with EndGames and have been straddling San Francisco as much as I can. Hmmm? Uhm ... Yeah, as much as I can. My lovely Saturday afternoons with Endgames began with Level I with Guillermo and James (of Fancy Ladies).
Guillermo and James sandwich
Our Level I show was in November 2012 at the Alcove Theater.
Debut and Closing at the Alcove Theater of

... and thus became a hug fest with the EndGames community and so onto Level II with Guillermo on Saturday afternoons.

Late Night Commutes from San Francisco
The EndGames crack got to me. Along came the 7-10 PM Level III, IV and Advanced Scenework classes.  I remember thinking there would be no way I would stay in SF through 10 pm after working all day - having commuted from the East Bay for work. San Francisco is about 35-45 minutes away on a great, non-trafficky day or night. Half of our Level II class went on to Level III (so I totally wanted to continue, right?!). And then several of us continued with Level IV. And speaking of ...
Our Level IV Harold team -
SIN KITTY(now Feral Kitty)
courtesy: Jayne Vidheecharoen (May 2013)

Our Advanced Scenework team - CARROT PEOPLE
courtesy: Megan Sauter (Sept 2013)
So pretty much from Sept 2012 to Sept 2013, my routine had been late night classes in San Francisco and late night classes in the East Bay/Fremont. Why both? Well, turns out there are different approaches to and styles of improv. Why not learn about others, eh?

Meanwhile, I also have kept on with MUT fun at the same time I have taken EndGames' classes.
Troupe 2013 fun.
Right now, I am part of the MUT Winter 2014 cycle of troupe, which ends in March with another cycle of troupe starting up in ~April.

Although I am not currently taking classes with EndGames (as they sell out quite fast!), that will change. For now I keep on straddling when I can, especially with improv workshops that EndGames offers, with the most recent being the trifecta with Craig Uhlir and Katie Rich's "Getting Out of Your Head" and "Harold". Oh - and then there are their  is their Thursday Showcase and jam afterwards, for which I finally got my fix a few Thursdays ago with folks I have met through EndGames and MUT.
HOT TRUNK Hotties after the Up 'Til Midnight Jam
L-R: Sean, Brian, shirlnutkin, Megan, Carolyn, Dean
Audience Suggestion: taco bell + pizza hut

Rogue Fun
At some point in early 2013, I was asked if I'd be interested in being a guest improvisor at a reunion-ish show of 4 other improvisers in the San Jose area who were part of a troupe called Party Fowl. They asked me if I knew other folks that would be interested. The result? My friend Dean and I joined as guest improvisors.
Dean and I - UkuleMe
(March 2013)
Three folks - Sean, Stephanie, Mike - that I met in a MUT class in late 2012 were part of a larger improv group, Party Fowl, in the South Bay/San Jose area. In March, we joined Party Fowl's Workshow, which included standup comedians, games, short form improv, and a little bit of jamming.
L-R: Stephanie, Mike, Trevor, shirlnutkin, Sean, Dean
We all continued to practice weekly toward forming a team called Illegitimate Improv with the intent of performing short and long form improv. While short-lived, we had fun. 

Since then, to keep on hanging out with Dean and get my South Bay fix, I've been hanging with other folks who meet up - YES! more straddling the Bay Area. Similarly inclined, we practice weekly primarily toward long form improv, while keeping sprinkles of short form improv in the pool.
the.saurus evolving and in the making
L-R: Dean, Amit, Rachel, Jennifer, Theresa, shirlnutkin, Alan

Camp Improv Utopia
Classes and shows aside, in May 2013, I experienced my first Camp Improv Utopia. 2012 was sold out by the time I registered in early 2012. Off of the wait list for 2013, I camped with ~ 100 improvisers (and a few virgin improvisers). Held during the Memorial Day weekend, food (tasty!), lodging, workshops, relaxing moments, and fun are all included.

at Camp Ocean Pines, Cambria, CA
2014? Yup, I am going again. I'm looking forward to meeting new people, reconnecting with those I met last year, and just seeing what happens.

Summing up My Improv Lovin'
As I wrote about in Anthrocubeology's Still Talking? Time to Create - pulling from Jimmy Carrane's blog post Stop waiting and start creating -

"The only power you have is the ability to create. 
No person or institution can take that away from you, 
even if you think so." 
Jimmy Carrane

What are you in love with?

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