By Darren Held

A Change Would Do You Good

Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative. ~ Oscar Wilde

Change is hard for most of us, to varying degrees. Naturally, improv helps that, because it teaches you all about being in the moment. And when you are in the moment, change can’t bother you. It can’t because there is no worry about what might happen in the future, or about what you might want to cling to from the past. There’s only what you are doing right this very second. And that is effing awesome.

Recently, Held2gether created and performed a fantastic sketch comedy show. The people in it worked their asses off for six weeks and, in the process, became very close. Sometimes physically close, as we were cooped up in a tiny room for a long time with nothing but each other, warm PBR and candy. But mainly close as in “super good friends who would do anything for each other.”

Afterwards, one of the people said to me that she hopes the next sketch performance class contains the exact same people only, because it was such an incredible experience and she wanted to repeat it.

I love that sentiment – that we created something so magical that she wanted to repeat it with the same group. But I’ve learned from experience that you can’t force magic to happen. If for some reason, the next class DID turn out to be the same people, it still wouldn’t be the same experience. And as much as I love everyone from that class and show, to insist that no other future incarnation of the class could be as special is silly. There was a time I swore I never wanted the H2G troupe to change, because we were family and I couldn’t imagine having to part with anyone or being able to accept anyone new. But if it hadn’t changed, we wouldn’t have the Friday Company – which means I wouldn’t have some of my best friends.

I told my classmate not to cling too tightly to that sketch experience. Not only is change inevitable, but by holding on to the past, you automatically prevent yourself from being fully in the present. Not only that, but having a new class with different people doesn’t negate the friendships you built in the previous class. You’re not exchanging one set of people or experiences for another. You’re simply adding another group to your collection.

Besides, like Oscar said, holding onto sameness is for people who lack imagination. Which is obviously not people who do improv. Um, duh.

I’d like to celebrate change by welcoming Sean Fannon to the H2G Main Company and Kendra Nicholson to the H2G Friday Company. Make a New Year’s Resolution to come see ’em perform!!

By Sonnjea Blackwell

By Darren Held

New Year’s Improv Resolutions

I dunno about you, but I’ve been a little freaked out about the new year. It seems like, more than in previous years, everybody has big resolutions and stuff and I am feeling left out. I think I was counting on the Mayan apocalypse to make resolutions sort of a moot point this year.

It’s not that I don’t have things to change or improve upon. Um, have you met me? Duh. But I’m not usually a well-it’s-January-first-so-I-guess-I-better-make-some-changes kind of girl. If I’ma do something like use an arbitrary date to signal the start of a New Me, I usually use my birthday. Or, you know, the third Sunday after the first full moon in the last month of the year that starts with a letter of the alphabet. In other words, a date that has meaning.

But I’ve been thinking about this New Year’s Resolution thing, and I feel like I’m copping out if I don’t make some. The thing is, I don’t know what I want to commit to.

And there it is, the magic word and the bane of my existence, improv and otherwise: commit. You’d think after all this time studying and teaching improv, I would be able to commit. But no. As soon as I think of a resolution, let’s just say “stop eating sugar,” 800 bazillion objections to that resolution pop up in my head. Like, what if there’s a zombie apocalypse (what? You can’t count on the friggin’ Mayans), and all there is left in the world to eat is cookies? And I’ve committed to not eating sugar. Well, then, I’m screwed.

You see my problem?

I am good at committing in improv (although it took years off of both Darren’s and my life to get me there), so I guess it’s time to bite the bullet and take that skill into the real world. So here’s my New Year’s Resolution: I resolve to commit to stuff*.

*”stuff” to be determined later.

By Sonnjea Blackwell

By Darren Held

Improv: Fabulous to the Nth Degree

I met some new people at a shindig the other night and, as often happens with new people, the conversation eventually turned towards improv. And by “eventually” I mean something like this:

“Hi, my name is Frank.”
“Nice to meet you, Frank. I’m Sonnjea. Let’s talk about improv, shall we?”

What? There’s no subtlety in improv, peeps.

Anyway, these new people were very nice and quite interested in the concept of improv as a confidence-boosting, self-esteem-building activity for at-risk youth. They got so excited and started telling me how building trust and overcoming fears and learning to be in the moment and respond would help people feel more confident in relying on themselves and be more willing to put themselves out there for others.

I guess I don’t really have a point to this post, except to say that I love it when people get that improv is so much more than just entertainment. If it was just entertainment, it would still be fabulous – never underestimate the power of the arts. But in improv’s case, it’s fabulous to the nth degree.

Just sayin’.

By Sonnjea Blackwell

By Darren Held

Improv Pet Peeves

My homegirl Kendra and I were talking about improv pet peeves the other day, and it occurred to me to share that information with you concerned readers out there. So, in no particular order, and with no particular explanation, here are 10 things that may bug hypothetical scene partners (yours or someone else’s.) [Note: I am sick, so if this is dumb and/or pointless, please just give me credit for trying. Thank you in advance.]

  1. Forcing an agenda
  2. Going for the joke
  3. Not listening
  4. Puppets
  5. Denial
  6. Stage whoriness in long form
  7. Asking questions
  8. Assuming your partner knows what is in your head
  9. Bailing
  10. Throwing your scene partner under the bus in any way in order to get yourself a laugh

Right, let’s not dredge that whole puppet thing up again, mmmmkay? I think the rest are self-explanatory. If not, ask me to clarify and as soon as my head clears up I’ll elaborate.

In the meantime, the H2G Friday Company is performing this Friday night for the very last time in 2012. Check ’em out at The Wine Down Lounge, 210 E. Ocean in the LBC at 8 p.m.

By Sonnjea Blackwell