By Darren Held


By Sonnjea Blackwell

Have you met Trixie? She’ll be here for one night only and you wouldn’t want to miss her!

Sunday, April 17th, 7 p.m. ~ EXPO Theatre, 4321 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach.

By Darren Held

Soccer Moms vs. Pole Dancers

By Sonnjea Blackwell

We don’t want to give you the impression that Held2gether improv performers are insane, but I’m still stuck on the soccer mom thing (we even named an upcoming show Confessions of a Soccer Mom), especially as it relates to swearing and, um, prostitution.

I blame Lisa, who said our show at Hot Java on Saturday was fantastic but could’ve used some more swearing. And that there’s something inherently funny in seeing one of my calm, sedate characters throwing out a “well-placed f-bomb.”

Anyway. For those of you who haven’t seen me, I’m the blonde girl in our NoH8 photo. Just for reference. Also, I have no children and am not a fan of soccer. However, there is evidently something about the way I look that makes people giggle when I say bad words. At Groundlings, I started out working on a “nice” character since my go-to character is rather bitchy. Clearly it worked, because after a few weeks when I finally reverted to my usual bitch character, everyone was totally shocked that I even knew the f-word and they all fell about the place laughing so hard.

And in Held2gether Level 2 class last week, we did this labeling exercise where one person gives the other all these character traits. Naturally, Barney described me as a hooker. In the past, I’ve also been labeled a pole dancer. Just the labels crack everyone else up, because they seem so against-type. “Ooooh, I know! Let’s have the soccer-mom-looking-woman play a hooker! Hahahahaha!” Once someone asked me if I could “stand like you’re stupid.” Really? Do less intelligent people stand differently than smart people? And, um, what makes you think I fall into the smart category any more than I fall into the soccer mom category?

I think what I’m getting at here is that, however you see yourself, there’s a good chance others see you differently. And if you can play with both of those images and have fun with the stereotypes, you can start to see yourself in a new light and push out of some of those boxes that we all put ourselves in. And there’s no better way to push yourself (safely and gently, of course) out of your comfort zone than by taking an improv class right here in Long Beach! (No, I’m not suggesting you actually become a hooker. Sheesh. Try pole dancing first and see how you like it, then think about expanding your horizons. There’s no need to rush.)

By Darren Held

The Opposite of Funny

By Sonnjea Blackwell

Today is one of those really annoying days that makes me want to swear inappropriately (seriously, I know I look like a soccer mom, but in my normal life I swear like a friggin’ sailor. I actually tone it down for you guys. A lot). Anyway, whatever the opposite of creative is, that’s what I am today. No problem, except that I get paid for being creative, not for being the opposite of creative.

Why is this our problem, you ask, and when is this post going to get funny? Excellent questions. When you learn the answers, can you let me know?

Okay, okay. See, sometimes you just don’t feel funny. Maybe you’re tired. Maybe you’re hungover, or sick, or maybe Mercury is friggin’ retrograde again. Who knows. It’s just that some days you really don’t feel “on.” Sucks if you’re a writer or a graphic designer (sorry, it’s all about me today). But luckily, if you’re an improv-er, you’re not all alone. Maybe you don’t feel funny – but there’s a good chance the whole class doesn’t feel the same way at the same time. So you just remember the rules, agree with whatever your funny partner has to say and try to add information. That’s the beauty of improv – it’s a team sport, and your partners are more than happy to help you out on days when you are the opposite of funny.

The other thing about improv is, you learn that everything can change in a moment. You might be the opposite of funny for half a scene, and then something clicks and you’re on again. It’s like that in life too. Just deciding you’re going to do the best you can with what you have at any moment can give you the impetus to keep going until you find your mojo again. So try a Held2gether improv class – we’ll help you get through the days when you are the opposite of whatever you’re supposed to be, and we really don’t care how much you swear.

By Darren Held

The Family That Sh*ts Together, Sticks Together

By Someone Else

There’s an old Vietnamese saying that a family who sh*ts together, sticks together. Yes, it’s true. We have a Vietnamese troupe member who SWEARS on its cultural authenticity. He told us so in between slurping down a bowl of Pho and wolfing down a spring roll.

Okay, maybe his recollection of the adage is a little off. After all, he’s only kinda Vietnamese. He’s also part Nebraskan, too, which caused him some serious identity issues during his formative years.

But he was definitely on to something. And like good improv classmates, we’re gonna “yes, and” his seeming-lunacy. For the sake of not making our reading audience ill, we’ll move away from the literalness of his sentiment and just focus on the metaphor. What he probably meant is that double-blind studies consistently demonstrate a near-perfect correlation between familial structures that regularly employ positive group dynamics and their high degree of cohesiveness relative to the general populous. Um, what? More simply put, learn to encourage each other during the rough patches and you’ll have a team that will enjoy success together over the long haul.

It’s really pretty basic – just watch a kids’ soccer game and you’ll know what we’re talking about. See the team where the players are encouraging the goalie, even though he just let yet another one sail past him? Sure, everyone, especially the goalie, is disappointed. And the coach certainly will have some feedback for him. But they’re still encouraging him – giving him high fives. Mark our words – that’s a team that’s going to make it to the finals. Maybe not this season, maybe not the next. But they will make it. And it’s because they’re familiar with the time-honored Vietnamese proverb.

At Held2gether classes, we’re just like the little soccer team that could. We love our stellar moments – when everyone has an award-winning class. But when you hit a rough patch, we’ll always be there to support and encourage you. Yes, you read that correctly. Even if your scene totally sucked, we’ll clap for you. Why? Because we want you to live a delusional life – it’s a much happier place than reality.

Okay, not really. While we wish that everything could always go well, you will undoubtedly have scenes that totally flop. Trust me, I have scenes that totally flop on a regular basis. The scenes will be void of any humor and will have violated every rule of improv. In other circles, you’d be castigated for your insolence. But at Held2gether, we’ll still clap. Sure, you’ll get feedback that may be a little difficult to digest. You’ll get pointers on how to get it right in the future. Even though you know the feedback is given with lots of love, it’s a bit hard for you to hear. And as you prepare to sulk back to your seat, you’ll hear applause.

That’s us, and we’re clapping for you. Some of us are clapping because, like a cymbal playing monkey, it is an automatic reflex. Most of us, though, are clapping because we are proud that you had the courage to risk getting up on that stage. We’re clapping because we’re happy you’ve learned something and will improve from the feedback. Most of all, we’re clapping because we care about you and want to encourage you to get back on your horse. Yeah you!

And that’s why the Held2gether family sticks together – because we’ve learned to authentically encourage one another during the rough patches. So join the Held2gether family for a workshop or class and feel the love and encouragement.

Now, if you see a little Asian guy at Pho 97, Pho 98 or Pho 99, will you please tell him he’s late for rehearsal?

By Darren Held

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