Be fearless in pursuit of what sets your soul on fire

IMG_0239
“Mistakes can be a beautiful thing in improv. We just need to learn to accept and embrace them,”  says Alia DeSantis, a Toronto-based actress and improviser.

When Alia DeSantis was younger, her mother had taped a note to their mirror that said “Be fearless in pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.”

It’s a common adage (sadly, a two-minute Google search didn’t identify who first coined it) that inspires us to find something that excites us, that sets our soul on fire, and to pursuit it relentlessly.

Anyways, let’s meet Alia, a Toronto-based actress and improviser, who knew since she was a child that she wanted to become a performer. “When [my mother] found out I wanted to be an actress, she set the note on fire,” Alia said while laughing. “Just kidding! My mother suggested I become a doctor when I grow up. My response? ‘Why be a doctor when I can play a doctor?'”

How did you get into improv?

I did a little improv in my high school drama class, but only really got involved with it when I was at Humber College. Like many improvisers, I grew up watching Whose Line Is It Anyway? and was completely enthralled by it. I’ve always been drawn to comedy, but improvisation held a special place in my heart. I find the whole thing very surreal but in the best way possible.

What has the journey been like for you after getting started in improv?

It has been an incredible journey thus far, and it’s only just the beginning! I’m still fairly new to the scene, but have absolutely fallen in love with performing, and hope to be doing it for a long time to come. I’ve been very fortunate and have had the opportunity to work with some incredibly talented people on some insanely fun shows. I’ve only been performing for about two and a half years, but the amount I have been able to do, and the amount I’ve grown as a performer and as an individual is immeasurable.

What would you say is your biggest accomplishment as an improviser?

I’d have to say my biggest accomplishment would be BOOZE CLUES, a monthly show I produce. There have definitely been other shows I’ve been a part of which I would consider to be huge milestones, but nothing compares to this. This is the first time I’ve ever created, produced and performed in the same show, and the whole experience has been eye-opening. To say it’s a lot of work would be an understatement, and I’m probably greying early from the stress of it all, but it has been such an insane process and so unbelievably worth it. I get to perform with my favourite people in a show I love and hold very near and dear to my heart. It’s like a dream come true, and next month we have Colin Mochrie joining us, so it literally will be a dream come true!

Do you have any favourite scenes?

All of them! Haha. I find it way more fun to be weird and absurd. I’ve played an animated broom, a male pirate, velociraptors (yes, more than once), Josh Murray’s father as a literal helicopter, and the groundhog from Groundhog Day. Recently however a very unusual thing happened to me on stage. Somehow in the course of the set I had cut my knee and it started to bleed pretty bad. I was oblivious to it, and continued to power through although I’m sure everyone in the audience was cringing. Tom Hearn was playing my son, and he had been killed in a zombie attack, (but not by a zombie, by Amanda Parker who was playing a visually impaired sniper). Cameron Algie and I laid on top of Tom in a Disney-like fashion to bring him back to life, and in the course of it all my blood ended up getting all over Tom’s arm. When he noticed I thought for sure he was going to pass out or puke on stage. The whole thing was absolutely bonkers, and the audience was going crazy. Tom and I have never been closer as we now share a blood pact.

How has improv made a difference in your life?

Improv has had such an incredibly positive impact on my life, and I honestly can’t imagine where I would be or who I would be without it. Some of my closest friends are ones I met through performing, and not only do they play big roles in my life, they have also shaped the person I am today. Improv is a great source of joy, laughter and creativity, and I am so fortunate to be part of such a special community.

Can you tell me about a time you’ve messed up on stage and just rolled with it?

I did a BeerProv show a while back, and made it to the final four (meaning I had to do a hoedown). For anyone who watches Whose Line?, it’s the exact same as they do in the show. You’re given a suggestion from the audience, and you have sing and rhyme eight bars worth of music. I really enjoy doing hoedowns, even though it feels like your heart and brain will explode in the seconds leading up to it. This particular time I had come up with the most perfect rhyme and was so ready for my part. However, when I opened my mouth to sing, what came out wasn’t English. It was like my brain malfunctioned, and every letter of the alphabet came out at once. I tried to power through it, but just kept spewing jibberish. Finally, I broke and started to laugh on stage. The audience got quite a kick out of it all too. Instead of allowing that situation to defeat me, I took a deep breath, waited for the song to cue up again and began to sing. Sure, I looked like a goof, but I had a great time and was able to laugh it off. Mistakes can be a beautiful thing in improv. We just need to learn to accept and embrace them.

Where can we see you on stage?

I perform monthly (2nd Friday of every month) in BOOZE CLUES at Bad Dog Theatre.

Is there anything else you would like to add or anything you would like to plug?

YES! BOOZE CLUES at Bad Dog Theatre is coming up on Friday, August 10th. We have Colin Mochrie joining us, and we will be donating all the proceeds to Rainbow Camp. It will be wonderful evening full of laughter and love, supporting both live comedy and the LGBTQ+ community.

Tickets are $15 and available at: www.baddogtheatre.com/booze-clues

More info:
Facebook : www.facebook.com/boozeclues.to
Instagram: @boozeclues.to

Thank you for sharing your story, Alia!

The magic of improv

37573098_10217032088021209_2047960017277026304_n
“Some days just going into a theatre is a huge accomplishment. Sometimes just putting on pants is a huge accomplishment. It’s all relative,” improviser Dan Frampton, pictured right, said. Photo credit: Brent Robichaud

As Toronto improviser Dan Frampton says, “I couldn’t have found a better thing to have in my life.”

I could not agree more. For me, improv has been like a fun and awesome but unpredictable friend, who forces me out of my comfort zone. “Hey dude, we should get up on stage together. And you should get down on the stage floor like a rat. It will be funny,” improv would say to me. You may be scared initially of hanging out with your friend named Improv, but you learn to love him.

Anyways, let’s meet Dan, who recently graduated from the improv programs at Second City and The Assembly. He’s also a singer, songwriter and vocalist with his band, The Dean Project, which he describes as an acoustic spoof act that satirizes music culture. They toured the country with their makeshift drum, a three-foot-tall plastic nutcracker named Munchie.

Disclaimer: Dan and I were classmates together at Second City. He’s a friend and he’s awesome. Here’s what he had to say about his journey in improv.

How did you get into improv?

Unfortunately, this is where the story takes a bit of a dark turn. While driving home from a show in Peterborough, we were hit by a transport truck. My best friend, and namesake of the group, Dean, didn’t survive the wreck. The five years that followed were the hardest years I could imagine having. It took much soul searching and episodes of Frasier for me to realize what I needed in this new life of mine.

Then one day, I started thinking, “Hey, just do improv. The Dean Project was just an untrained musical improv troupe. Just learn this fer realz.” So, I dropped into Second City and the romance began.

I’m so sorry to hear about your friend. What has the journey been like for you after getting started in improv?

It’s actually been so fucking crazy. Life-changingly crazy. I find that improv fucks with my head in so many beautiful ways. One day, in one scene, a concept makes total sense. It works! Yay, laughs! The next day, in a new scene, that concept ruins everything. Boo, no laughs! The learning, I feel, is all in the play. The “rules” don’t dictate what’s good. That immediate response from the audience tells you what’s good. And I love that! That constant discovery is what keeps me going.

What would you say is your biggest accomplishment as an improviser?

Some days just going into a theatre is a huge accomplishment. Sometimes just putting on pants is a huge accomplishment. It’s all relative.

I totally agree. Just putting on pants is an achievement for me. Do you have any favourite scenes?

I was doing a jam at The Social Capital. My character was a waiter. Every offer made him need to pee more. Halfway through the scene my nose actually started bleeding, giving my character the motivation to run to the bathroom. I yelled “I can’t work anymore” and ran to the actual bathroom. To this day, the SoCap 3rd floor stage has a bit of Dan Frampton DNA soaked into it. Totally gross, man!

How has improv made a difference in your life?

It’s a whole new life. I couldn’t have found a better thing to have in my life. I truly love improv. I love warm-ups. I love short form games. I love classes and drop-ins. I’m in love with long form. But to me, it’s all about the community and the shows! I’m often not the best in social scenarios and the politics of the scene sometimes really fuck with me. Those are things that I’m always working on. I’m endlessly thankful to have a community where I get to work on some shit with.

Can you tell me about a time you’ve messed up on stage and just rolled with it?

I’d say my improv style consists of only mistakes and trying to dig myself out.

Where can we see you on stage?

I’m not playing on many stages these days. Mainly because “improv audition” is a major oxymoron to me. It bends my brain in many unnatural ways. Improv is an in- the-moment experience. It lives and dies simultaneously. To bring that to a panel of judges seems unfair me. I’ll be going to events that I see posted online. While there, I’ll be doing my best to make friends. If there’s a jam, I’ll likely play. That is unless I don’t like the host!

Is there anything else you would like to add or anything you would like to plug?

I’m producing my very first show on August 16 at The Social Capital Theatre. The Social Capital has been a very important to me. It’s my improv home. It’s a magically place to me. I wish Ralph MacLeod and Carmine Lucarelli, the owners, knew how much I love and appreciate them. It means the world to me to have my show up on their stage.

It’s an experimental long form format that I came up with and want to try. It’s called Total Fucking Chaos. I’m hosting it in my Dean Project persona with our resident nutcracker, Munchie. It’s going to be a mix of all my favourite things. Punk rock, pro wrestling and long form improv. Be there!

Another disclaimer: I will be performing in Dan’s show, Total Fucking Chaos, so you should really check it out. 

Thank you so much for sharing, Dan! Improv has definitely become one of the best things in my life and I don’t know what I would do without it.

Feeling like your best self

Tyler Improv
“I truly feel like I’m my best self when I’m hosting,” says improviser and producer Tyler Morgan.

As improviser Tyler Morgan says, “I just need to be myself and that’s enough.” And he’s absolutely right. Since pursuing improv last year, I felt myself becoming more confident and more comfortable in my own skin.

Anyways, let’s meet Tyler, an improviser who moved to Toronto from Winnipeg five years ago. Now, he performs sketch and improv all over Toronto. He also produces the monthly show Zero Hour Improv at Comedy Bar, now celebrating its two-year anniversary (let’s have some cake!). Tyler opens up about how he got into improv and how he feels like his best self while on stage.

How did you get into improv?

Improv was a secret art form that I had watched on “Whose Line is it Anyway?” but I had no idea how to learn it. I did some research and found the Manitoba Theatre for Young People. One of the classes they taught was improv. The only thing standing in my way was my mom. My mom at this point thought I was going to be a businessman or a lawyer. Comedy wasn’t even in sight at this point. I gathered up my courage to ask her to sign me up.

She calmly yet sternly said “No.” I accepted this answer.

A few weeks later, my mom was driving me to school and I had a new way of asking her to sign me up. Her blue Buick drove down the snowy trail as I waited for the perfect moment. I turned to my mom, who had her eyes on the road, and I quietly peeped “Mom, if you really love me you’ll sign me up for improv classes.”

My mom didn’t look at me, we passed by the “Pic a Flic” where we used to rent movies for a dollar on Thursdays, with total silence. We stopped at a red light where my mom turned to me and calmly said “Okay”. I was signed up the same day which began my journey into the improv world.

What has the journey been like for you?

I think I’ve come a long way in improv. It’s not just me seeing how loud I can yell. I still get the same magic chill up my spine when I hit that line or make that connection with my scene partner. I’m in The Assembly now where I’m learning long form and it’s a different beast for sure!

What would you say is your biggest accomplishment as an improviser?

I’d say as an improvisor producing the show Zero Hour Improv. We’re celebrating the two year anniversary in July so I’m very excited. It’s been a long process finding out the best way to do the format of the show. I have redefined my relationship as the host. I remember having only three troupes on it. We fit in short form games in between the troupes. It did okay. Now I book 10 troupes on it. No games! It’s really become a place where the troupes always have an audience. There is no chance of failure. We had a guy spit into another guy’s mouth during the last show .The audience loved it. My hosting skills have also improved. I finally learned that I didn’t need costumes or elaborate openings. I just need to be myself and that’s enough. I truly feel like I’m my best self when I’m hosting that show.

That’s amazing! How did you come up with the idea for Zero Hour Improv?

Zero Hour Cover Pic

Two years ago, I was doing a Star Wars-themed show, which premiered on May 4. We got through two shows. The final show in July everything went wrong. There were actors that couldn’t make it because of fringe. The poster person dropped out on me. It was a disaster! I was thinking of dropping the show but Isabel Kanaan told me that I should just invite some improv troupes and play some games. I thought that was a way better idea than just cancelling.  I invited three troupes to play on the show. My mom made the poster. The only thing was to name the show. I wanted to name it after the fact that it was put on at the last moment. I thought it was “Zero Hour”. However ,it was later pointed out to me that what I was really thinking of was the “Eleventh Hour.” I later looked up what Zero Hour meant. It’s defined as “The time at which a usually significant or notable event is scheduled to take place.“ I thought it fit pretty well. Did I mention we’re celebrating two years on July 4? Thank you, Isabel!

Any favourite scenes?

Oh boy! This is one of my favourite scenes I’ve ever done. I’m playing Hitler (no relation, of course!). I’m upset because Germany is not seen as the most evil country in the world. My partner asked, “What was the most evil country in the world?” What could really be more evil than Nazi Germany? I pondered a moment. For whatever reason I picked…Canada.

My partner burst out laughing. “Canada?! What could Canada have done to be worse then us?!” he asked and to be honest I didn’t know the answer.

“You don’t know?” I replied, hoping to think of an answer.

“No, I don’t,” he replied.

I was racking my brain on what to say then I had it. “Have you ever heard of residential schools?” I said and the class lost it. I had worked my way out of a corner in a realistic way. It was thrilling to write myself into a corner and get out of it on the spot. Only improv could give me that.

How has improv made a difference in your life?

I think the biggest impact improv has had on my life is that it gave me a community of great friends in Toronto. The move to Toronto was a bit scary and lonesome. When I got into the Second City Conservatory, it brought a lot of great people into my life. I owe so much to that class. It’s where I met the members of my sketch troupe, Live Dudes (check out their YouTube channel!). Who knows where I’d be without those guys? I definitely wouldn’t have a cow costume in my closet.

Can you tell me about a time you’ve messed up on stage and just rolled with it?

I had a piece of my jaw taken out to correct my under-bite. Sometimes in scenes I won’t be able to pronounce because my jaw just can’t move fast enough. I’ve learned to embrace that, make it a part of my character and maintain it throughout a scene. It’s always great overcoming something like that.

Where can we see you on stage?

You can see me at Zero Hour Improv every first Wednesday of the month. Our next show is July 4 at Comedy Bar. It’s going to be a loaded show and my dad is coming out from Winnipeg. He’s a fan. You can get tickets here!

Awesome! Thank you, Tyler, and happy two-year anniversary to Zero Hour Improv!

The courage to take risks

Swipe Right Melissa Dana Derek Gina
Melissa Holman-Kursky started improvising almost 20 years ago. “It’s given me a home and community,” she said. “It’s given me courage to take risks and to be resilient in the face of failure.”

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from improv, it’s the courage to take risks. The courage jump into situations that may scare you. I remember one scene where two of my scene partners were talking about a rat in their home. So, I decide to jump in the scene as the rat (basically, I just crawled on the floor the entire time).

Anyways, let’s meet Melissa Holman-Kursky, an improviser, coach and festival producer from San Francisco. Melissa is part of the artistic team behind Un-Scripted Theater Company in downtown San Francisco. She is also the co-founder and executive producer of the West Coast Musical Improv Festival. We caught about up about how she got into improv and how it gave her the courage the take risks…and her husband!

How did you get into improv? 

It was actually an awesome lesson in what can happen when you fail. I had never thought of doing improv in my life. I was a freshman at Tufts University right outside Boston. I was a drama major and mainly interested in scripted theatre and musicals – but to my abject horror (ah, the drama of being 18!), I wasn’t cast in the university’s department show that fall. I had seen the improv troupe Cheap Sox perform, and thought they were amazing, but didn’t think I could possibly do what they did. But, I was in such a fatalistic mood over not being cast that I decided, “What the heck – another rejection won’t kill me,” and signed up for auditions. The longest break I’ve taken from improv since then – 1999 –  was for about three months, when my son was born.

What has the journey been like for you? 

Rewarding. Challenging. Almost never boring. Filled with some of the greatest friends and cast mates one could ever hope to meet. Serendipitous in many ways – I feel like people took chances on me all along the way that have led to some amazing opportunities.

What would you say is your biggest accomplishment as an improvisor? 

Oh man, that’s a tough one! Right now, I’m super proud of the publicity that a show I created, Swipe Right, has gotten in the past couple of years. We set out to tell truthful, diverse stories of all kinds of people – not just heteronormative, cisgendered ones – searching for connections, and have had an overwhelmingly positive response. That’s been a priority for Un-Scripted in general, and I’m proud of the kind of work we’re doing.

Any weird moments or scenes? 

You mean onstage or in my everyday life? 🙂 I’ve had a few weird favourite shows and characters, like my improvised teen goth radio show at ImprovBoston, but most recently I was really pleased to be recognized by a past audience member…for playing a singing llama about 8 years ago. It’s funny what sticks for some people!

How has improv made an impact on your life? 

In every way. Just every way. In the most literal sense, it’s given me a home and community throughout cross-country moves and every stage of life. It’s given me my husband, for that matter! It’s given me courage to take risks, to be resilient in the face of failure, it’s made me a better teacher and parent and hopefully the cognitive flexibility it provides is going to stave off dementia for a few extra years!

Oh wow! How did you meet your husband?

We actually met onstage at ImprovBoston. We performed in the same show every week starting in 2005. We finally confessed our feelings and started dating in 2008, to the apparent lack of surprise to everyone else, and have been together ever since. When we left Boston and moved across the country to San Francisco, we knew it was unlikely that we’d be cast together again anytime soon. Happily, that wasn’t the case, and Un-Scripted eventually asked us both to come on as ensemble members and as members of the staff that runs the theatre. Now we have a four-year old son, but we’ve managed to keep improv as a major part of our lives. Our son even slept in a baby carrier on my chest for some rehearsals. He has this wonderfully skewed view of what adults are like, as a result.

He is definitely going to become an improviser! Can you tell me about a time you’ve messed up on stage and just rolled with it?

I definitely steamrolled my way into a scene that I thought (from backstage) was calling for a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Came thundering out onstage, tiny hands, the whole shebang. They definitely had said “trucks.” Not T-Rex. Oops. Lots of people still regularly send me dinosaur memes.

Where can we see you on stage? 

Mostly at Un-Scripted in San Francisco, on and off throughout the year, though I travel to festivals as well! I’ll next be appearing with both Un-Scripted and the hilariously named Kickapoo Community Players at the West Coast Musical Improv Festival. Otherwise, if you really want to see me, you can take a class with me or bring me to your company. 🙂

Is there anything you want to add or anything you want me to plug? 

Sure, thanks! Un-Scripted is 16 years old and runs a full season of improvised theatre – everything from full-length improvised plays and musicals to more traditional improv comedy. People can find us on Facebook and Instagram at @UnDashScripted. The West Coast Musical Improv Festival is about to have its third year from July 19th to 22nd. This year we’ll be bringing 13 troupes from across the country to perform and lead workshops over four days, and will have everything from hip hop to a cappella to a special musical version of Speechless!

Awesome. Thank you for sharing, Melissa!

Improv is for anyone

30167295_10210110921643200_4747901798983685307_o
Shreya Patel (left) started improvising in January of 2017. She says pursuing improv has changed her life.

As Shreya Patel says, improv is for anyone. And she’s right. Before boarding the improv train last year, I never did any kind of performing. Hell, I never even imagined myself getting on stage. But getting into improv has been one of the best things I have ever done. Then again, I don’t do much.

Anyways, let’s meet Shreya, a model-turned-actress-improviser-and-filmmaker living in Toronto. She recently directed a documentary called Girl Up, aimed at raising awareness of domestic violence, human trafficking and social injustice. In addition to acting and improvising, she is also a mental health advocate and can be seen in this year’s Bell Let’s Talk campaign.

Disclaimer: Shreya is a friend of mine. We did classes together at Second City and we’re members of the same troupe, Coffee Breath. But she’s cool. Really cool. Here’s what she had to say.

How did you get into improv?

I was dealing with anxiety due to the negative environment at my workplace and I really needed a laugh which is when I decided to sign up for improv classes at Second City. It was something I always wanted to try and the time was right. I knew that taking my first improv class would keep me on my feet and help me be present in the moment which was hard to do at the time.

What has the journey been like for you?

The journey has been incredible. The teachers. The community. The people. When I first started my improv classes, I didn’t realize how addicted I would get to it or how far I would come. I am so grateful every day to the day I decided to do improv and signed up.

What would you say is your biggest accomplishment as an improviser?

I heard from teachers and peers that the Second City conservatory program is hard to get into. I was just finishing up Level E and didn’t think I was ready to audition so I didn’t sign up. On the last day of class, two days before the audition, our teacher Matt Folliott mentioned that if you audition and don’t get in, you will get good feedback for the future. I emailed to find out if any spots were still available and they squeezed me in with a group for the audition. I went to it stress-free because I was convinced I will be required to audition again and was there for just for the notes. I remember having the most fun on stage due to feeling no pressure. A couple of weeks later, I got an acceptance letter to the program. The feeling was incredible.

Any weird moments or scenes?

Oh, yes. I was performing at Comedy Bar with a great bunch of people and we did a pad set (a pad set is an audience-driven format, where improvisers come up with different premises based on audience suggestions). We got on stage and it got really weird. The premise involved Demi Lovato’s evil pants. I’m not kidding.  I played Demi Lovato, and two of my team members became my pants, one side each. One member became Owen Wilson and tried to save me from my pants.

How has improv made an impact on your life?

Improv has changed my life. My anxiety has healed and the amount of amazing people I have met on this journey is incredible. I am more involved in the community and I perform or watch improv shows every week. My ideal weekend is watching a show at Bad Dog Theatre or Comedy Bar, and hanging out after with everyone in the community.

If there’s one rule of improv that stuck with me, it’s that okay to make mistakes. Can you tell me about a time you’ve messed up on stage and just rolled with it?

Yes, there are many times as improvisers that we mess up on stage and we gotta know that it is okay. My Conservatory teacher Alastair Forbes gave us the best advice: If you are not having fun on stage, you are not doing it right! It really stuck with me and now every time I hit the stage, I always ask myself, how can I have the most fun right now and do that.

Where can we see you on stage?

We are putting up a show almost every second week at Second City for conservatory program and trying out new premises to see if it works. Our main show is on October 20 at 1pm at the Second City main stage. I will also be soon performing with my class at The Assembly Improv. Dates are getting finalized soon. For dates to the shows, follow @imshreyapatel.

Is there anything you want to add?

Improv isn’t just for actors. Improv is for anyone. I recommend it to anyone from all different backgrounds. It’s an excellent way to meet like-minded people, improve your mental health, build communication skills, have fun and…most importantly…laugh. Brighten up your day with some comedy. Do self-care. Do you.

Thanks, Shreya! You heard her, folks. Improv is definitely for anyone. Now go do some improv. Seriously.

There’s no place like improv…I mean, home

BBB_5893
For more than 30 years, Velvet Duke has been doing improv. He says one of the main benefits is the opportunity to connect with others. Photo credit: Brent Robichaud

When I first got into improv last year, one thing that struck with me was the inspiring and supportive community that I found myself exposed to. Over the past year, I met a range of talented improvisers who continue to support each other.

One of them was Velvet Duke, an improviser and singer based in Toronto. Velvet started performing 30 years ago and hasn’t looked back. We caught up about his journey navigating through the improv community and how he sought to even further empower the community with some awesome shows.

How did you get into improv?

My high school theatre arts teacher introduced improv as one component of his curriculum. After that, I had an opportunity to go to school for programming or acting. I loved programming but didn’t think I would like it as a job. I took a year of theater in college and found it didn’t satisfy the way improv had.

Improv is the more interesting art form because you can throw yourself into the moment and each show offers different moments.

What has the journey been like you?

It has been a lifelong journey with some of my greatest joys and friendships, and some of my deepest woes.

What would you say is your biggest accomplishment as an improviser?

Being thanked for some of my show formats — they were designed to uplift the community and that has seemed to have worked.

That’s amazing that you produced your own shows for the community. Can you tell me more about that?

It was new to me. I’m used to creating things but to have people thank me was really humbling.

Anyways, INTERSECTION was created to offer more stage time to diverse performers. It gives us a chance to see ourselves together as a group rather than one or two per show. It also brings in an audience that reflects that diversity.

Tough Love was part personal workshop and part show, where a featured performer could work through some of their bad habits. It was fun while it lasted and may come back.

The Sampler was a competition format that had performers working against strict timings to develop their skills for delivering and polishing material on demand.

What inspired you to produce these shows?

Initially I would look to see what I felt was a missing format in the communal landscape. Of the three though, INTERSECTION is the one I am proud of yet most similar to other shows. It isn’t the first show of its type — but there was still a hunger for it in the community.

Also, I love improv too much not to have things on the go.

What has the feedback been like?

Each sought to bring the community together. INTERSECTION often has the performers and audience talking after the show, continuing their personal stories.

Also, I’ve had professional performers unable to be part of the project thank me for creating it for the sake of the community.

That’s awesome. Anyways, back to you, my friend. Any weird moments or scenes that you can share?

I remember engaging with the audience at a Harry Potter themed show at Comic-Con. A little boy decided he was a very deadly potion but he also had the cutest giggle. At another Comic-Con show, a young woman decided she was a dragon. They were as invested as the performers!

How has improv made an impact on your life?

  • Finding the “yes” in seemingly difficult situations
  • Bringing humour to tense situations
  • Being able to empathize and connect with others
  • Being able to face down fears, to act through it
  • The joys of spending hours (okay, years) performing and talking about a shared passion
  • The friendships

If there’s one rule of improv that stuck with me, it’s that okay to make mistakes. Can you tell me about a time you’ve messed up on stage and how you rolled with it?

Once I coughed from the sidelines and that led me to be endowed as a sickly wife being used as blackmail to keep the husband working the smithy.

Also, I’ve developed aphasia and I already speak faster than I think, so I have made many unintended offers. Happy accidents!

Where can we see you on stage?

I perform across Toronto with my troupes The Dandies and OverDude. Also, I guest on shows at The Social Capital Theatre, Comedy Bar, Bad Dog Theatre, and regularly at the QAPD Collective, Toronto’s weekly LGBTQ open mic show, at Pegasus on Church.

 Is there anything you want to add or anything you want me to plug?

Learn everything you can by watching shows and taking classes but also hold on to your unique style, interests and, especially your weirdness.

Shows to plug:

INTERSECTION – the joys and struggles of Canadian life (next: June 6)
Diverse storytelling comedy show – 1st Wednesday of every month at The Social Capital

Holodeck Follies (next: June 9)
Spontaneous Star Trek and variety comedy show. 2nd Saturday of every month at Comedy Bar

Thanks for sharing, Velvet! Also, make sure you like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter!