Exploring the potential in Plan A

PotentialPlan A.

For as long as I can remember, my true Plan A has always been performing and more specifically making people laugh. I was in my first school play at 11 and was pretty much involved in every school play after that, if possible. As I grew up the challenges of being an actress in this short, round, tubby, ethnically vague body became too daunting and I fell back into my other passion – writing.

I love writing. It is who I am. It is how I make a living. But writing was never Plan A. Writing was a safety net that I am kind of okay at and it has worked for me this far.

When I started taking improv classes I was flooded by the old ambition and passion of Plan A. I remembered how much fun it was to perform and create comedy with people on stage. I became an addict and took every possible class I could get my chubby little hands on. I have spent the last year of my life immersed in improv and trying to make my way back to stage.

Years after giving up Plan A, I feel this strong urge to see what happens if I put the hours into performing and producing that I have in writing. Will I find more than the mediocre success I have found in my career, so far? Or better yet, will I find that fulfillment in my work that I have been desperately searching for years.

With all the classes and the chance to learn from some amazing teachers, I felt my confidence grow. And my passion to perform completely outshines any self-consciousness that I feel about how I appear on stage. This is me… short, round, tubby, ethnically vague and totally accepting and owning that (thank you 31!).

Today was the last Notorious show with the whole crew before Mat and Ryan go off to Toronto. And I was actually choked up at the end. Watching these guys perform and grow together as a group has been not just  joyously hilarious but incredibly inspiring too. It felt incredibly special from the first time I saw them to tonight. And I am so inspired by Ryan and Mat’s gall to go so boldly toward their dreams. These are guys around my age who are giving up the stability of their lives and improv reputation to go to a city where they have to start all over again. They are fiercely going to chase down a dream. Something I have been dreaming of doing all my life. It is inspiring push for me to act on my Plan A.  

September is the start of the improv season and I am so excited to be involved in it. I want to push myself to learn more, feel more comfortable about performing and owning who I am on and off stage. I want to see what it is like to live in the life of Plan A and see where that takes me. I am feeling incredibly ambitious to contribute to Calgary’s improv scene and grateful for the opportunities to pursue my passion to do what I have always loved to do. Plan A! YAY!

Saying goodbye to an improv inspiration…

Lil PainMat Mailandt has been a fixture in Calgary’s improv scene for years now. He was a senior member of the Improv Guild for years, a major contributor and promoter of the Improv Festival, one of the founding members of Obviously Improv and Notorious and arts educator in the city of Calgary for years. As much as I call myself an avid improv fan, I had actually not known of Mat until I happened upon a show he was in, in December of 2013. I remember so vividly seeing Notorious perform for the first time. Their energy filled the little black box Birds & Stone Theatre and I was hooked, instantly.

It is pretty insane how breaking my hermit routine and choosing to skip Dateline for a new improv show on this particular night changed the course of the year ahead. Shortly after seeing Notorious perform for the first time I saw that Mat was teaching a class and being such an insta-fan, I was totally on board. In fact in the last eight months I have taken numerous classes from Mat and by doing so, my hobby of taking improv classes has developed into a passion to perform and create on stage.

In the past I had put a lot of expectations on my improv skills because of the pedestal I place this favourite art form of mine on. My idols Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Will Ferrell all have improv background and I have been pining about Second City since I was 16 years old. With all this pressure I had built around improv in my head I had forgotten a crucial strength of a great improviser – joyful failing. Taking classes with Mat has reminded me of the joy and fun of doing improv and that failing is all a part of the dance.

I think without having met Mat my improv would have been stuck in the rut it had been in for the past four years. So today in my last classes with Mat, before heads of Toronto to do great things for the Canadian comedy scene, I was filled with gratitude to have learned from this talented and supportive teacher who has reminded me how much fun improv can be and has helped me find my way back to the stage and doing what I love.

The Calgary improv scene is going to be extremely different without Mat Mailandt and equally talented Ryan Hilderbrandt, as they head off to Toronto. It is sad to see them go but I know that they will go represent all the talent they have helped grow in this amazing improv community they are leaving behind. And we, as students and fellow colleagues of theirs, have the opportunity to put the lessons they have taught us and the joy they have instilled in us back into the improv scene here in Calgary. Mat & Ryan – thanks for lessons, laughs and the legacy you’ve left behind. We will be cheering you on from #yyc!

Notorious

Inspiration and improv found me at the Calgary Fringe Festival

NotoriousI have been facing a creative slump as of late, when it comes to my improv and comedy pursuits. But whenever I am feeling stuck or in a funk, I look down at my Eiffel Tower tattoo on my left arm. Everyone asks me about it and I have given an abbreviated explanation, “Going to the Eiffel Tower changed my life.” But the more accurate reasoning behind it is that the Eiffel Tower changed my perspective. After years of being miserable at the bottom of the barrel of my career and a personal battle with depression I got laid off from my job and found myself smack dab in front of this beautiful sparkling tower. In the middle of my tour, I went found a quiet place to look up at the tower and promise myself to never forget that no matter how rough life gets, moments like this will unexpectedly sweep into my life and bring in that joie de vivre – the joy of life.

As I said I have been feeling like I have been in a slump with improv these days and it should be anticipated because of the summer and shows and classes being few and far between. But even when I do have a chance to jam with people, I have been feeling a bit off and not as comfortable as I was feeling in the spring. I was not willing to quit though because I knew that around the corner would be that joy that improv and comedy had brought into my life. And this week after a class with one of my favourite longform improvisers, and a couple of really fun shows I checked out during the The Common Ground Festival and The Calgary Fringe Festival – I am feeling excited about telling stories and doing improv again!

Learning from Covy Holland of the Kinkonauts was a pretty exciting opportunity for me, not only because I have become a big fan over the last few months, but because Covy is a comedy geek like me and appreciates the same kind of styles that I do. I might not have had the greatest class but it got me excited to hear a new perspective on improv from someone as passionate and nerdy about it as I am. I really hope to get more opportunities to learn from Covy and fellow comedy geeks in the upcoming season.

On Saturday I took some friends to check out Five Dates at the Common Grounds Festival. Written, produced and starring my new improv friend, Shawn Hoult. It was a story about his first and last five dates he had as an awkward and nervous 19 year old in the ‘90s with an older girl who he was just unable to seal the deal with. The show was in a small black space, with two chairs, two talented actors and soundtrack I could identify with. It was vulnerable, quirky verging on awkward at times, funny and so honest. And it is cool to see people use at-the-time-traumatic moments to inspire a funny and engaging story. To me, that is art in its purest form.

Tonight I capped off my amazing long weekend with some Fringe Festival wonderfulness with my improv friend, Jocelyn. Jocelyn is another improve lover/geek who recommended we go check out Chase & Stacey’s Joyride before hitting up the Notorious Beer Garden.  The show was held in the Lantern Church in Inglewood and I really had no idea what to expect as I sat in a church pew and waited for the show to start. They had a hilarious musical opening number with singing, rapping and awful and funny dancing followed by longform improv and sketch comedy that had me close to tears it was so freaking hilarious. This show is playing again Friday and Saturday, so if you like laughing and stuff – check it out!

The night was capped off with my boyz, Notorious who have a sweet Fringe set up with their Pop-up Patio in Inglewood. I know how much work it took them to bring it all together with press, set up and doing solid sets for nine days in a row but the work has definitely paid off. They have had sold out shows every night and I was so happy to finally get to see it all come together myself tonight. My favourite thing about Notorious, besides their mad beats of course, is that you can see the respect they have for each other and their audience from start to finish. Their energy is engaging and it is just such a good time outside there with beer and pizza. If I could every day to Notorious Beer Garden, I would but I can’t because of work and stuff – so why don’t you go for me!

I am happy this week came around and reignited my passion to learn and create more in the Calgary Improv and comedy scene. I know a lot of cool stuff is coming up in the fall and I am so excited to work to contribute to this bustling comedic community because in my heart I know, this is where I find my Joie De Vivre!