By Darren Held

Improv Crush

My sweet friend Aimee LaRue is definitely many peoples’ “improv crush.” These are her improvy thoughts:

I recently completed a Level 2 improv class after a relatively long hiatus from taking any improv classes: the holidays, sketch class and performances, etc… you know, stuff comes up. I wanted to focus on scene work and get back into the improv groove. The first day of a new session is always a mixed bag of emotions for me: excited to start a new class and see at least some of my improv family once a week; nervous about the new people that I’ll meet and work with; dreading the possibility of failing at an exercise and letting my scene partners down… the usual self-doubt and -denigration that many performers face. So, as I walked in to this Level 2 class with all of these emotions rumbling around my head, my heart, and my stomach, I took a deep breath, cleared my head of the negative voices, and put a smile on my face. It was about a 50/50 class for me: I already knew about half the people enrolled in the class from prior classes and from the troupe, and the other half of the students were completely new to me.

Performing improv with people you know well is like a long-term relationship, because you know each well. You have a good grasp on each others’ strengths and weaknesses, understand their quirks and character, and you can easily pick up on subtle hints and signals that can send a scene off in a wonderfully hilarious and well-executed improv-y direction. Just like a good, constructive relationship: you want each other to succeed and help the other person look good doing it. That said, working with partners that are new to you can be exhilarating and treacherous, like the beginning of a new relationship. Yes, you may falter in key things initally, and step lightly with your words and behavior since you don’t know each other’s boundaries yet, but if that magic moment happens with a new partner and the spark of electricity lights you both up, it can be so tangibly pleasing to the soul.

I definitely found myself having an “improv crush” on several of my classmates, and I am not ashamed to admit it! I would find myself extra excited when I found myself in a scene with one of them, like a 13-year old girl who’s been put in a group project with the cutest boy in school. But, not only that, it was a true joy just to sit back and watch scenes from the audience, fueling my inspiration gas tank. Yes, this class was very special to me.

After our final class of the session, most of us went out for drink at a lovely wine bar in downtown Long Beach. It was at this extra-curricular outing that I started to get to know some of them as more than just my hilarious and motivated improv classmates, but as the people they are outside of our two hour class of shenanigans. I actually got bold enough to tell one or two of them that I have an “improv crush” on them, which seems silly saying as a woman in her early 30’s. Their vigor and fresh perspective on improv really put a big gust in my improvisational sails, and I wanted to encourage them to keep going (selfishly really, because I just want to keeping getting to play improv games with them). Just like anything else in life, as much fun as a hobby or passion can be, you can find yourself in a rut and not even realize it. Thankfuly, revitalization can come from the most delightfully unexpected of places.