Laughter Yoga for the Improviser and all Creatives

laughter yogaGood laughter is terribly infectious, yet you don’t see a lot of it in movies, and I’m guessing that it falls into the same category as complex special effects and scenes with animals, in that, time and money often force a director to think whether they really have the time in the schedule to get the scene.

Good laughter is also rare in today’s technological/social media age. Remember laughing so hard as a kid? Almost peeing your pants and not being able to remember what was so funny in the first place? Children laugh on average about 300 times a week, adults, 15.  Acting /Improvisation relies on being in the moment, being able to play, on stage or in front of a camera. Laughter Yoga helps to get the actor/improviser there. Whether Laughter Yoga is used as a warm-up for performance, or as I do, a daily regime, it is an exercise for the insides, laughter helps create great bonds, enhances creativity, reduces stress, improves the immune system, and it even helps people to learn faster.

Yogic breathing techniques (breathing from the diaphragm) are integrated with intentional laughter practices, (object/space work) resulting in numerous benefits to physical and emotional health. Participants live life more joyfully and are better able to cope with whatever stresses life may bring.

The overarching reason to do Laughter Yoga is that it is fun!!!  It’s really true what they say, “Laughter is the best medicine!”

Victoria Headshot 2Submitted by Victoria Dym, actress, storyteller, published poet, Certified Laughter Yoga Leader, ordained minister, and an ensemble member on the The Box house team, Dear Aunt Gertrude. Twitter Handle @vicdympoet
Sources: American Journal of Medical Sciences, Alternative Therapies, Psychology Today, The Scientist of the University of Maryland Medical Center (as cited in The Orange County Register)

 

Goodbye 2017!

2017 was a year of many transitions. When we look back at all we were able to accomplish, we certainly see that it takes passionate and creative people to make a humble theater like The Box successful.  Thank you to everyone who supported The Box Theater in 2017-our students, audiences, staff, leaders, performers and friends. Without you, we wouldn’t have been able to complete almost 50 main stage events.   We were able to put on shows, run drop ins, Playground Nights, Classes and more.  What’s more, we moved our theater  and in many ways it feels new again. Thank you for laughing at us and with us. We can’t wait to see what 2018 brings.

Take a look back at 2017 at The Box

The Escape Artisans Take New York: Unlikely Lessons from the Del Close Marathon

EA at Del CloseMention an improv festival to any improviser and they’ll always tell you two things: the shows you cannot miss and the workshops that will change your life. It’s a given; you go to the festival to immerse yourself in as much amazing improv as possible. But what happens when you don’t want to do anything improv related at an improv festival?

In June, The Escape Artisans had the privilege of playing at the UCB’s 19th Annual Del Close Marathon in New York City. “Del Close is generally considered the father of Improv. He was the driving force behind improvisational comedy in Chicago for over 30 years, influencing Bill Murray, Tina Fey, Mike Myers, John Belushi, Chris Farley, and the Upright Citizens Brigade, to name a few. After Del’s passing in 1999, the UCB started the Del Close Marathon to celebrate their mentor and keep alive his name and teachings for future generations.” (UCB, 2017) The Del Close Marathon is one of the largest, most famous improv festivals, encompassing 56 straight hours of improv on ten stages across New York City.

As soon as we announced that we had been accepted to the festival the suggestions started rolling in.

“Take as many workshops as you can!”

“Don’t miss the 3:00 AM bit shows!”

“The shows at the Chelsea theater are worth the two hour wait!”

It all sounded amazing. And absolutely exhausting. I’d recently started a new job and was required to get a specific industry license ASAP, so every free minute was filled with studying. The week leading up to the festival was a whirlwind. My licensing exam was that Tuesday, I was teaching multiple classes at a conference my job was hosting on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday and then immediately flying to New York and playing in the festival that night. While I was excited that my team would get to play in NYC, what I really wanted to do was crawl in bed and binge on Netflix and ice cream.

A couple weeks before the festival I told my teammates that other than our show, I didn’t want to do anything improv related while we were in New York. To my pleasant surprise, everyone felt the exact same way I did.

Fast forward to Friday, June 23rd. We arrived in New York that evening, climbed eight flights of rickety stairs to our small Airbnb, went to dinner, and rode a wave of adrenaline through our show at 11:00. After the show, the entire team went into vacation mode. For the next 72 hours we didn’t talk about or think about improv. Completely the opposite of what you’re supposed to do at a festival. And it was one of the best decisions we’ve made as a team.

After miles of walking, numerous boxes of wine, amazing meatballs, Josh blurting “My ride is here” every time we heard a siren, and two ridiculous restaurant experiences (you’ve never lived until you’ve been accosted by the manager of an Indian restaurant or chased down the block by a server demanding a larger tip) our team ended up closer and more connected to one another than ever before.

One of my favorite things about the trip was each night at the Airbnb, drinking (or, if you’re Matt, spilling) wine and talking about our day. Between trips to the roof and random walks to the CVS down the street, we’d recap where we went, who we saw, and what we did. Chelsea was an early riser, so she would go out exploring while everyone else was sleeping, Chris and Dale spent Saturday shopping while the rest of us explored the financial district, and Elyse just started a new job, and wasn’t able to come to New York at all. But none of us felt left out of the adventure. Improv is about creating a world, digging into the details, and bringing that world to life for the audience. In this case, we were each other’s audience.EA at Del Clost

The payoff for a weekend of ignoring improv was huge. Our team was refreshed, inspired, and more in synch; and our shows were funnier and more cohesive. While talent and skill are important, a successful improv team is built upon a foundation of friendship, trust, and shared experiences. Sometimes this looks like seeing shows and taking classes together. 
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Other times, you have to throw everyone into a small Airbnb in a new city and have a weekend of ridiculous adventures.

Submitted by Nikki Ashlock-Tribe Leader and Player on The Escape Artisans Twitter handle @latinamermaid

The Box has moved.

We are excited to be opening The Box Improv Studio located inside The University Mall.

IMG_2524 2We will be hosting classes, workshops, and rehearsals in this space. Soon we will be using the Underground Theater (located upstairs near the food court) for shows. Classes will begin August 2017.

Coming off of Fowler-Park between Dillards and Sears, enter the MAIN MALL ENTRANCE next to Famous Footwear. Walk straight back towards Burlington. The Box Improv Studio is on the left.

 

Using Improvisation as a Working Actor

Submitted by Charles HarrelsonCharles Harrelsona working actor and an ensemble member on The Box House Team, “The Light Bulb Society”

“Improvisation is essential if the actor is to develop the spontaneity necessary to create in each performance ‘the illusion of the first time.’” -Lee Strasberg

This is the crux of acting. Spontaneity.

I’ve been an actor for almost nine years, and believe me, I’ve given my fair share of listless performances. Most of the time it wasn’t on purpose, either! When it did happen, it was usually because I was in my head to the point where I would convince myself there was no other way to approach the scene or say a line that I’ve been performing for weeks on stage. It’s an even worse feeling in film and television, because the director may ask you right then and there to give them something different than what you’ve been doing, and ff you don’t have an answer, you run the risk of looking unprofessional and boring.

Luckily, actors have this cool device in their toolshed called improvisation. It can usually be found just passed the tangled garden hose, behind the empty flower pots, on a shelf of old paint cans and extra motor oil.

Careful, though… most likely, there’s a stray cat lording over it!

Here, kitty-kitty-kitty…

Although you may not be able to improvise on set (some directors will let you), you can still use improv to discover the natural or sensible behavior of your character when you prep, therefore, giving you a mixed set of logical responses when the director does insist on a different read. It acts as a safety net for those situations.

There’s no two ways about it. Acting is hard, hard work. Remembering lines, hitting your mark or finding your light, pretending there’s no audience or ignoring a camera that’s two inches from your face is tough when you’re trying to be “private in public.” The amount of homework you have is no walk in the park, either. Breaking scripts down into objectives (overall and scene), unraveling your character’s obstacles, finding beats and actions, fulfilling historical, thematical, and subtextual obligations is all a part of the job, and by the time you get on stage or on set, you got all this stuff in your brain, which you’re supposed to just “let go” when you perform. Mr. Strasberg calls this “conscious preparation – unconscious result.”

This is where improv can save you. It gets you out of your head, plain and simple. Thinking becomes secondary, and we trust our creative impulses will meld with the work we’ve done beforehand. 

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The great thing about this particular tool – improv – is that it’s so closely related to acting that they’re almost one in the same. Technical differences aside, the core of acting and improv is listening and reacting.   A parity of giving and taking. If you “let go,” and drop any preconceived ideas of how the scene should play out, and make it about your scene partner (relationship), then the outcome, whether it works in the context of the play or film, or not, will be truthful, and the truth is always more interesting.

David Razowsky is coming to Tampa

Screen Shot 2017-08-03 at 1.03.08 PMMind Map of Razowsky’s Teachings by Bob Kodzis

If you love improv you don’t want to miss this! David Razowsky, improv giant- is coming to our humble improv community in Tampa for 2 days only.

dave-to-rightDavid Razowsky is the respected former artistic director of The Second City Los Angeles, and the host of the podcast ADD Comedy with Dave Razowsky. David is based in Los Angeles where he teaches a weekly Wednesday drop-in class when he’s not on the road. His travels across the world in 2015 alone brought him to over a dozen states plus Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and the UK. At Second City David worked with Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Rachel Dratch, Chris Farley, among others. He’s directed numerous Second City revues. He is a consultant for Dreamworks, a teacher for Steppenwolf Theater, adjunct faculty for California State University, and he directed two productions for Amsterdam’s Boom Chicago TheatreDavid’s a member of the Reduced Shakespeare Company and performed in their Kennedy Center run of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged. (Bio from SecondCity.com)

Meet The Improv Teams

 

We currently have 6 house teams at The Box Theater. Our improvisers often mix up to create new performance themes in Pop Up Shows outside of our main season.

 

 

Humble beginnings

I love Chicago. There is something that draws me to that city, improv aside, it calls to me like a siren and I am easily wooed. Last year when I visited, it was the dead of winter. I always think it is somewhat miraculous when you can be in warm beautiful weather and bitter freezing cold in the same 24-hour period. The one environment makes you forget the

FullSizeRender 2other exists.

For this visit, I was on a mission. I wanted to see countless hours of improv. I wanted to be moved, to be inspired, and to remember why I fell in love with theater in the first place.

My first visit to Chicago was probably 15 years ago. I remember dragging my
older sister through the streets of the city from one humble venue to another until the wee hours of the morning. My sister, a non-performer and mother of 2 or 3 kids at the time-(I honestly can’t recall), was a willing companion. At the time, we visited each space. There were no frills. The performers lit up the tiny stages. I remember being packed into a crowded IO Theater and being so close to the performers, I could touch them.  On another trip, when I begged my brother to come along, we visited The Annoyance Theater. It was a simple room with plain folding chairs and an old piano on the side of the audience. The players were the shiniest thing in the room. They breathed life into these ordinary spaces.

The words of a college professor echoed in my mind, “Theater is created with a space, a performer, and an audience.”

Seeing those small spaces and raw performances, it was clear these artists redefined the boundaries between stage and audience, and without all the bells and whistles-they made art. No excuses. It was small and simple.

When I first started doing improv, I read everything I could get my hands on and fast learned that behind the scenes, these small movements had starters firing the gun to initiate creativity-an improv maker.

In much of the U.S. I’d argue that some of the most innovative improv happens in small obscure spaces such as these and whatever visionary is “behind the curtains,”-people pay little to no attention to them, but they are there.

So when I returned a year ago, I was struck by the explosion of improv. All of these humble beginnings have turned into beautiful facilities with multiple classrooms and theaters in each space. I had to push through people to get in. Being there, I almost forgot there was something small years ago. The one environment made me forget the other ever existed.

But it did. Small things grow into bigger things. There was a visionary, seen or unseen- and now I was witnessing the fruit of their work.  I couldn’t help but be encouraged. There is something special in the small, a kind of intimacy, that prepares for the bigger. The self-effacing visionaries in the work of improvisation understand this. 

When I heard about Jason Chin, passing away, I read an article that said he would sweep and mop the IO stage floor before shows. I was struck by that. Chin, a greatly loved improv giant, made the stage ready for creative genius. He swept the remnants of the previous night’s improv shows and yesterday’s classes-to ready it for something bigger.  He was an improv maker…making a way for the small to transform into the big and for me to witness yet another performance so I can be reminded why I love improv.

“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones…” Luke 16:10