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by Darren Held

Homegirl Tracy Araujo has some interesting things to say about improv… Check it out, won’t you!?

Meister Eckhart said “Be willing to be a beginner every single morning.” And I totally take his advice. Well, only on Saturdays. Because I take level 1 improv class on Saturday mornings.

I’ve often been asked why, even though I’m an “advanced” student and troupe member, I still take level 1 classes on a consistent basis. My first response to that is “Duh. Sonnjea teaches it.” My second response is a bit more complex because I had actually never asked myself that same question – why do I still feel the need to take a “beginner” class? Let me see if I can explain:

It's the most important meal of your improv day.

Start with crap, and you’ll crash before long – in improv AND in life.

We’ve been taught our whole lives that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, right? Have a good, nutritious breakfast, and you’ll feel energized the rest of the day. If you leave the house without eating, it’s pretty certain you’ll crash in a few hours and you’re more likely to eat something unhealthy before lunchtime just so you won’t pass out (unless you actually LIKE McDonald’s, but I digress).

It’s the same way with improv.

In improv – regardless of the level – you always need a good, nourishing beginning to your scene. ALL improv scenes begin the same way: space work, eye contact, and emotion. A scene without these things will flounder and spend the entire three minutes trying to figure out relationship, what they’re doing, or where they are. Just like our people bodies, a good improv scene needs a healthy beginning that can strengthen it for the next three minutes.

In level 1, you learn all this stuff for the first time. And if you take level 1 a second time, you learn it again. And if you take level 1 a third time, you learn it again. And again. And again. In level 1, we learn a game called “Add-info Lineup.” The purpose of Add-Info is to learn to build a scene, block-by-block. You know – space work, eye contact, and emotion. Oh, did I already say that? That’s because IT NEVER CHANGES.

You can do one million improv scenes and no two of those scenes would ever be the same – ever (and it would take a really long time). Reinforcing these very basics in class again and again (and again) has helped me tremendously because I’m required to remember, over and over again, what constitutes a good, solid beginning to my scenes. And I get to see Sonnjea every week.

So see? Every single scene needs a good breakfast or it will be forced to eat a lot of “stuff” with no nutritional value. Probably somewhere in Gonna-ville.

Darren Held
About Darren Held
Darren is the CEO and Creative Director of Held2gether, Improv for LIfe. He has been teaching and performing improv for 15 years, and has performed with H2g, the Groundlings, UCB and Second City. He loves Moto, red wine, and Madonna.

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