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by Darren Held

Held2Gether brings art and the community together – Long Beach acting | Examiner.com. By Marlon Deleon.

There is always something to learn, regardless of who you are. One can stop learning if he/she so chooses, but there is an eternal possibility to delve deeper. In an age of child stars performance artists peaking before they are old enough to drink (legally), learning as adults becomes overshadowed by the routine of commuting, working, paying bills, and sleeping. The members of Darren Held’s improvisation group, Held2Gether, have bonded in an educational process and presented their theatrical findings to the public.

Overexposed! was the culmination of an eight-week course involving short-form improvisation techniques and character development. Each of the eight actors wrote original monologues, and in the spirit of perpetual learning about one’s craft created and developed characters for themselves individually, as a team of artists, and for the public’s enjoyment. In the main hall of the EXPO Center in Bixby Knolls, Overexposed! lived up to its name: a pair of worklights were mounted for stage lighting, portable but power-packed speakers filled the great hall with music from a glowing Macbook, and the actors changed scenes and took their marks before the audiences’ eyes in comparable dark. The aforementioned characteristics are far from negative criticisms of this event, they are commendable facets of a professionally production of artists that shared their art with Long Beach. From Sean Cloutier’s monologue “BFF: Bus Friend Forever,” to Jayme Newbold’s Romulan Captain-select in “Abernathy!” the evening was a pleasant communion full of fresh creativity between the artists and the audience.

Although many of the audience members were not familiar with the format of short-form improv shows that thrive on audience suggestions, M.C. Darren Held kept the positive energy rolling introducing each of the artists throughout the night. In contrast to the monologues that were developed over the course of the eight-week class, the actual improvisations occurred in group scenes alternating with the monologues. Viet Hoang, Sonnjea Blackwell, and Andy Arajo were members of an expert panel explaining the direct representation of health care in the popular cartoon world of Popeye. Later on, Jayme Newbold and Sean Cloutier were Sally and Pablo, going out for a night on the town to enjoy the premiere of the new cinematic treat, Chips and Salsa. Viet Hoang was the usher at Pablo and Sally’s theatre, and when he wasn’t hyping the movie up for them, Newbold and Cloutier switched points of view and acted out scenes from the spicy new film.

Every actor was highlighted during the evening, taking their opportunity to showcase the hard work and bold choices that were attempted and refined in the weeks before. A show like this doesn’t come often, but it’s essence of live theatre was as strong, if not moreso than some companies that have noticeable budgets. The men and women of Held2Gether have created something for the people of Long Beach, and we can only hope, for our community’s benefit, that they continue to share their art with us. Their next show, Spiked!, will be at Elise’s Tea Room (map it here) on October 1st at 7pm. Check out their website here for more information or friend them on Facebook!

The players of Held2Gether are: Barbi Allen, Andy Araujo, Sonnjea Blackwell, Sean Cloutier, Viet Hoang, Jayme Newbold, Robert Sapia, and Sheri Scialla. Congratulations and thank you, artists for sharing your theatrical adventure with the Long Beach community.

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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