Who needs self-help when you have improv?

Improv 1

If you read this thing, you probably know I am pretty culty and obsessive about the art of improvisation these days. My total consumption of said art has not just brought me pure and utter joy during my evenings and weekends at classes and shows, but it has immensely changed my attitude and energy in pretty much all aspects of my day. The lessons that improv carries about being positive, failing gracefuly, contributing and supporting your partner, have really given me the tools to let go of some old bad habits and create new effective ones. Getting the chance to work with different improvisers with different styles and levels of experience has helped me realize what can be created and accomplished when you walk into a situation enthusiastically, ego-free, ready to contribute and accepting that failure might happen.

I am a 31 year old nerd with a passion for comedy and performing but I by no means takes these classes and get up on the stage for any sort of fame or glory. I am totally encapsulated by improv for the last couple of months because I have got to meet good people, who just like me have a passion for comedy and cracking people up. I came for the good time, not the big time. I do improv and go see all these shows because it makes me feel good and alive and gives my favourite thing in the whole entire world… laughter. And if it ever loses that essence and becomes about one-up-manship and some vain attempt at glory, well then it would have lost its magic – and I love that magic too much to ever think of losing it.

Another weekend swept up in my improv addiction and yay for that!

Punching fear right in the nads

photo (1)I am a natural born worrier. I worry about being late, about getting hurt or embarrassed, about doing a good job and about making the people around me happy – pretty much on daily basis for as long as I can remember. There has been countless times I let fear get in my head and definitely in my way and too often I have lived to regret it. For a long time that translated into stage fright and it stole too many years away from my passion for storytelling.

Since January, fueled by the promise and vigor of a new year, I decided to plainly and simply get the eff out of my own way when it came to my pursuits in improvising. I have wholehearted jumped right into every opportunity I have had to take a class and perform. Sure that nagging feeling of fear rises up as it always did but pushing through and getting lost in a story or a character, makes every fibre of my being feel alive. And after being a corporate zombie for a few years now, it is a refreshing feeling indeed.

For the past month of Sundays I have been taking a class with a group of women that has really helped me conquer my nerves and grow confident with what I can bring to a scene and how I can support my partner on stage. The tools given to me by my ballsy, badass teacher Laura Tennisco really showed me how to be a powerful, present performer on stage. My favourite lesson I have learned from her class is the “cardboard box theory” – an old Keith Johnstone technique requiring improvisers to act like they have been in a cardboard box all week awaiting an opportunity to be on stage (aka the story of my life these days).

Tonight I got to celebrate my love for improv and all that I have learned with my talented class with Laura. We opened the show up with high energy and few hits and misses and it was as always joyful to perform with these lovely ladies.  After us was a group of some my improv lady idols – Laura, the deeply talented and wonderfully grounded performer Renee Amber, the always hilarious Marie Boston and fresh from a stint with Second City *swoon* the ever engaging Lindsay Mullan. To even be associated in a show with these talented women was a huge thrill for this improv nerd! The night was awesome and made me fall even harder for improv!

If there is something that you are passionate about – like playing soccer, making music, cooking – and even if it does not pay your bills , make sure it plays a role in your life – no matter what common sense and all your worrying tells you. This is your life, so make it what you want it to be. And as for fear – punch that sucker right in the nads and get on with being happy.

 

Full circle – my adventures in storytelling

storytelling

When I was younger than I can remember to put an age to, my father said that I would be a writer. He endowed me with a suggestion that I took on wholeheartedly. For as long as I can remember I have felt most at home in a journal or typing these words on a screen. I have over 51 teenage journals that have been gathering dust in my parents’ basement for years. Whether telling the tales of my own teenage angst or making up stories about the people around me to make them more interesting, storytelling has been a passion of mine. When I finally found improv in junior high, I found a way to bring storytelling to life and I was hooked.

I have gotten through many a ridiculously rough situation in my life by telling myself that someday it would make a great scene in some great piece of work I would be a part of. As the years passed, I wondered if that was going to be just another pipe dream. But as I throw myself into improv, my stories have once again found a home. And the more I let my passion guide me, the more opportunities to share my stories continue to come up.

On June 6 at 10:30pm, I will be featured in Past Your Bedtime with two of my favourite Loose Moosers Andrew Phung and Renee Amber. I will be reading the melodramatic notes passed by the group of friends I had when I was 15 years old and Andrew and Renee will do scenes inspired them. Having something from my past inspire a show is truly a dream come true, especially at a theatre so close to my heart. I am really excited to see that the Loose Moose Theatre, with spearheading from the forward-thinking Andrew Phung, is experimenting with new formats and consistently giving support and opportunity to passionate up-comers to develop skills and get stage time. I am honestly honored to have the opportunity to be involved in the theatre during such an exciting time.

I am also a part of another cool show this Thursday. My women’s improv class that just ended will be opening for some of Calgary’s most talented female improvisers – Laura Tennisco, Renee Amber, Lindsay Mullan and Marie Boston.  I can’t wait to gush about it all right here on this blog! I am so honored to share the stage with women I admire and lookup to so much.

I’m excited for what lies ahead and I hope I see some of you in the audience to watch me take this long awaited leap to chase my lifelong dream for storytelling. Life will take you to some pretty awesome places when you follow your bliss.

Improv makes my heart sing…

ImageThere have been a few times in the last couple of years where I have sat my desk at work and asked myself what I was doing with my life. Don’t get me wrong I have extreme gratitude for the blessings of employment. I like being productive and having the security of a regular paycheque and benefits. Work became an escape at times, I threw myself into it to ignore all the things I didn’t want to focus on in my personal life until eventually I let my job consume and define me. At the end of last year it all became crystal clear that, that was not enough. My job is not who Andrea Marston is.

What I wanted was not even that hard of a question to answer. What I wanted has been around since I first laid eyes on the Cosby Show and Saturday Night Live, and that want evolved when I was eleven years old and got my first part in a play as Two-Watt the time traveling Christmas robot. I love the light that burst through myself, a room or a whole theatre when someone inspires laughter in someone else. And when I get to be a part of inspiring that laughter, I feel like I know who I am and what I want to be doing with my life. My fear, my insecurities about my weight and how I appear on stage and the idea of failing – I refuse to let any of that stand in my way anymore. My passion for comedy carries more worth in my life.

Today I had five hours of improv classes while I “should have” been doing all the other practical things on my growing to-do list and to save money for all the practical adult things I should be saving for. But I have absolutely no regrets about the way I spent my day. I pushed my limits in my Musical Improv Intensive Class with Mat and Ryan from my favourite comedy troupe, Notorious (who nailed another killer show at Café Koi – check ‘em out May 24). It is so hard to not be in your head when you are trying to rhyme but the guys were so awesome about celebrating our failures and having us focus on the beat, that I legitimately could feel myself get out of my own head and let go. What was nerve wrecking experience in the first hour, became joyfully fun by the end.

When that class was over I had my last class of Improv Mama an all-ladies class taught by one of my favourite funny improv superstars, Laura Tennisco from Obviously Improv. I have really enjoyed the energy of working with all women. The class has been empowering and supportive. Laura’s notes always celebrated our success before she noted what we need to work on.  I feel like I got a lot of gems out of from her improv tool belt that I am totes gonna steal! I am so excited to be performing a class with these talented women who have helped me grow stage confidence these last few Sundays together. Check us out at Waves Coffee at 30 Springborough Blvd SW on Thursday, May 15 at 8pm when we open for some Calgary Improv’s finest and funniest ladies!

The day has reaffirmed my commitment to storytelling to inspire joy. I want to be a part of that magic and so I shall immerse myself to learn all that I can from all these lovely people who are generous enough to share their expertise with me. And work, well work will pay for it all. 🙂