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By Darren Held

You Have to Practice So You’ll Know What to Do if Tim Tebow Learns to Pass.

I mentioned on Facebook yesterday that I’m looking forward to Held2gether presents Wreck the Halls, our last improv show of 2011… but that I’m especially looking forward to rehearsal. Some people assumed this had something to do with alcohol. Honestly, people, I don’t know where you get these ideas.

First of all, I feel the need to explain “rehearsal” in the context of improv. Improv is totally made up on the spot, with no way of knowing what the audience will suggest or what your scene partner(s) will say based on those suggestions. So we clearly can’t rehearse scenes. Duh. That would be called acting.

But in short form improv, there are a variety of games (you’ve probably seen ’em on Whose Line) like New Choice or Playbook or Foreign Movie that we play, and it’s helpful if the improvisors understand the games before showtime. Just think of rehearsal as football practice: you practice the fundamentals so when the big game comes along, you know what you’re supposed to do. You still don’t know if the other team is going to blitz, or if Tim Tebow will suddenly learn how to pass, or if your kicker will make the easy 38-yard field goal, so you can’t preplan your specific moves. But you understand the game, so you’ll know what to do in any of those situations.

Anyway, the reason I look forward to rehearsal so much is because everyone tends to be slightly amped for the upcoming show, but still loose and relaxed because there’s no audience. That combo of high energy with fearlessness and the joy of playing with people you know and trust leads to great improv. If you eff up in rehearsal, so what? But precisely because you’re that bold, you probably won’t eff up, and it’s so much fun to see people playing that confidently.

That’s how it is in Held2gether improv classes – the level of trust and encouragement makes everyone feel comfortable being bold and creative and adventurous, and pretty soon you’re addicted to hearing people laugh and applaud. Which is a pretty good addiction to have, if you’re gonna have one.

Um, there’s no moral to this story, actually. Just sign up for an improv class already, would you?

By Sonnjea Blackwell

By Darren Held

Improv: More Important Than Collages

I think I may have mentioned it before, but in case you missed out on this useless tidbit about my life, I have a degree in art. You know, the drawing/painting/making-collages-out-of-found-objects kind of art. And without getting into a whole big thing about art and society and the Dark Ages, let me just assure you that art of every kind (ie, painting, acting, writing, photography, singing, composing, improv-ing, etc.) is crucial to a civilized society.

Of course, improv is more crucial than the others. Duh.

What? You think I can’t justify that statement? C’mon, people, you know how I roll.

All of the arts fulfill important needs of both the artist and society as a whole: personal self-expression, social commentary, calls to justice, propaganda and of course, entertainment, to name a few of the biggies.

But where improv differs from the other arts is in the skills needed to create it. The technical skills I learned for drawing and painting apply specifically to drawing and painting. They may even help me see the world differently. But they don’t help me function in the world differently.

Improv is the only art whose skill set helps people function better in their day-to-day lives. Listening, agreeing, contributing, trusting, working well with others, accepting and committing are skills needed in improv – and, if I’m not mistaken, come in pretty handy in life as well.

And, like the other arts, improv is totally a learnable thing. I’m not being disingenuous when I say that this whole mystique that makes people think arts can’t be learned is total crap. You learned how to make coffee, didn’t you? Then you can learn how to paint a coffee cup. Or compose a song about coffee beans growing in the sun. Or improvise a scene set in a Starbucks in Times Square.

Whether you want to try improv because it looks fun when Drew Carey and his pals do it, or because you want to push yourself out of your comfort zone, or because you think some of those skills you learn in improv might actually come in handy in the real world, Held2gether improv classes are the answer. January classes are enrolling now!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some glitter and macaroni waiting for me…

By Sonnjea Blackwell

By Darren Held

Improv Shows, Classes and a Little Begging

Hello and welcome back to our blog. We took a little break to eat turkey and insult bad drivers, but we’re back now with lots of exciting improv-y information.

No, really!

First of all, Held2gether presents Wreck the Halls this Friday night at the LAST First Fridays of 2011. Don’t miss out – Elise’s Tea Room has awesome teas and tea-room-type snacks, and of course, the improv is pretty darn amazing as well. This show features the H2G Friday Company plus a few guests, including yours truly.

Nextly, it’s time to register for January classes. We’ve got two Intro to Improv Comedy classes, an Improv Comedy Level 2 class and a Long Form Improv class beginning right after New Year’s. All the details, including prices, dates and pre-requisites are on the website. They’re already filling up, so don’t procrastinate!

And lastly, what Darren really wants for Christmas is 500 Facebook fans. If you haven’t already, can you please go to the H2G Facebook page and click Like? Otherwise, I’ll have to knit him a hat or something. Thanks!

By Sonnjea Blackwell

By Darren Held

Improv and the Traffic Circle

I was thinking about survival of the fittest the other day. It stemmed from people who couldn’t navigate the traffic circle and my uncharitable thoughts about how miraculous it was that they’d somehow survived long enough to have gotten a driver’s license.

What? I know it seems like I don’t have a bitchy bone in my body, but that’s just my brilliant façade. Ha! And you thought I couldn’t act!

Right. So as has been known to happen when I have thoughts, I sought to validate said thoughts by Googling. In this case, I Googled “Darwin Quotes.” And this was the first hit I got:

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.

Now, I’m not going to swear that Darwin said this. Just because Google claims it’s so doesn’t make it so. But it explained how people who can’t manage a gas pedal, a brake pedal and a circle have somehow managed to live to adulthood: They may not be strong, and they’re apparently not bright. But they can evidently adapt.

Change happens constantly, and it’s not that pleasant or comfortable sometimes. But our survival – emotionally, if not literally – largely depends on our ability to adapt to the changes life throws at us. Maybe it’s job changes, or relationship changes that you struggle with. Maybe you find it difficult to deal with never-ending technological advances. Maybe you just wish they’d bring back Gilmore Girls already.

Whatever it is, improv classes can help. I’m not making that up. The very heart of improv is learning to go with the flow. You have no clue what’s going to happen in a scene or exercise, and you learn to be okay with that. It’s a little scary at first, but after a while, it’s exhilarating. You learn that you can adapt and go with the flow and take everything in stride, and you don’t freak out or die or stuff.

And once you get the hang of it in class, you start being more adaptable in the rest of your life. So you don’t bat an eyelash when you get a new boss. You aren’t as skittish about dating. You learn to text and operate all of your remote controls. You realize Modern Family is pretty damn funny.

I can’t swear it’ll help with the traffic circle, but honestly, peeps – it can’t hurt.

By Sonnjea Blackwell

By Darren Held

Computer Programming or Unicorn Sculpting?

I get bored easily, which is why I no longer have a “real” job. After working at the same place for a decade, doing the same paperwork-y thing day after day, I thought my head would explode. If I had known about improv back then, maybe I could’ve kept my job without any cranial pyrotechnics. But without improv as an outlet, my creativity was wilting, my personality was best described as über-bitch and I was always hungry.

Oh. Wait.

Anyway, now I do a little of this and a little of that, which usually means a little writing and a little graphic designing. But sometimes it means a little programming. You know, like for computers and stuff.

Stop laughing. Turns out, I’m half nerd (or, as Nate says, a Nerd Muggle). I’m one of those people who, when I took those career aptitude tests in high school, scored about the same across the board for creativity vs. logic, humanities vs. science, blonde vs. brunette, etc. Which means I’m decent at a lot of things, but not great at anything.

I went the humanities route, getting a degree in art. Excellent career choice, btw. But when I need to do something techy like write HTML, I get all nerdy and into it. It’s kinda like a big ol’ Sudoku puzzle, and I love using the parts of my brain that don’t often get a workout.

(Clearly, I’m not adept at using the parts of my brain that lead to having a point. Sorry).

Ahem. The point is, maybe you don’t want to write computer code for fun. Or maybe you do, but you don’t want to sculpt a unicorn. The good news is, Held2gether improv classes in Long Beach are designed to help you use all the parts of your brain. You learn to listen, react, make connections, let go, communicate, laugh and be silly. Yeah, the laugh and be silly parts of your brain probably don’t get enough use these days, and you don’t want them to atrophy! So come take an improv class with us in the new year.

It’s more fun than Sudoku. No, really.

By Sonnjea Blackwell

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