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  1. Living Joyfully: Lessons from Improv Comedy

    December 25, 2012 by Howlin Walker

    This is an article I wrote for my College Alumni Paper…

    I live joyfully and happily, largely thanks to the lessons of improv (spontaneous) comedy. By applying improv techniques to your relationships and your life, you, too, can live a more mindful, peaceful, and fun life!
    Say “Yes!” Improvisers are trained early to say “Yes, and…” This simply means that they accept whatever is said or done on stage as reality, and then add to it in some way. If someone starts a scene by saying “Let’s build a robot,” and I say “No,” then boom — the scene stops dead. Improv only works well when people say “Yes” to what’s happening. That unstoppable, creative energy works the same in real life.     “Yes” is about accepting what IS. Not what you think SHOULD be. “Yes” means that you are open to the reality of it, not that you necessarily condone or agree with what’s happening or being said.     The power of “yes” is that it’s constructive, inclusive, long term, and joyful, while “No” carries destructive and stress-filled energy. Companies that foster a “yes” culture are much more creative and successful. And people who have a “yes” mentality are more fun to be around!
    Be present. If I’m in a scene but worried about what I just did (“Dang, I should’ve said ‘pancreas’ instead of ‘spleen!’”), or planning what I’m going to do next (“If he drops the glass, I’ll indicate my head exploding in slow motion!”), the scene will suffer because I’m missing what’s going on. Like Zen Buddhism (all about relieving suffering), improv is about being fully present.     Just as people are in the habit of saying “no” instead of “yes,” many spend most of their consciousness in the past or future. It’s scientifically proven that being mindful in the present moment makes you more observant, able to respond appropriately, and less tossed around by your emotions.
    Trust that everything is a gift. Anything someone says or does in an improv scene is a wonderful gift. Even the worst mistake can take you in amazing directions, and even the most tragic things in life are opportunities to grow and become better. You can view the universe as cruel, or you can trust it. Trust doesn’t mean you’re a passive blob. When you trust, you’re not fighting for control.

     Lighten up — go with the flow! Having fun opens you up mentally and relaxes you physically. Being in a scene with an actor who is really serious and having no fun is … well, no fun! It’s the same in real life. If you’re feeling stuck, chances are that you’re putting too much weight and importance on one or more things. If you lighten up, things will most likely have room to start flowing.

  2. Instant Songwriting for Everyone!

    September 8, 2012 by Howlin Walker

    (This is a reprint of an article originally posted on ) by Katie O’Sullivan

    Have you ever seen Musical Improv on stage and wondered how in the world they do that? How do they come up with songs on the spot?
    Here’s the book to show you how!
    In INSTANT SONGWRITING, Nancy Walker takes you on a fun, journey-at-your-own-pace trip through learning the basics of melody and music, and how to make up a song on the spot so that it sounds “real.” Her breezy style is easy and fun to read, and makes you want to try out the exercises and sing right along.
    Nancy has been performing improv comedy since the late 1980’s when she took her first improv class with ImprovBoston and then later joined the troupe. She’s traveled the world through comedy, teaching and performing in cities around the globe as well as on various cruise ships roaming the high seas! She’s in Chicago now, as the director of Chicago Improv Associates.
    After successfully creating the first completely improvised Broadway-style musical (to rave reviews, no less!), she started to teach others her methods. Now she’s put her knowledge down on paper, in this book.
    The book is a wonderful tool for those who perform improv comedy on stage, but also a good basic musical tool for anyone involved with musical theatre in any form. It’s also a useful book for anyone interested in songwriting in general, as Nancy lays out the steps to creating a good song and the basic knowledge necessary to go from blah to beautiful.
    Each section of the book gets progressively harder and more complex in the exercises and content of the lessons. Part I, or “Dunce Level,” assumes you know nothing yet and just have the will to learn. By the last Part, or “Diva Level,” Nancy explores and explains the phenomenom of Sondheim-style songs with her now-oh-so-advanced readers.
    INSTANT SONGWRITING is appropriate for anyone, teen on up, who wants to learn more about creating their own songs, adn would even be great for those high school theatre programs or Destination Imagination teams who need new improv games to play to get their creative juices flowing.
    Buy it on Amazon here:
    And start singing!

    Katie is an author, magazine editor, wife, and mother to three kids and two dogs… not necessarily in that order. She is author of UNFOLDING THE SHADOWS and has recently signed a contract with Crescent Moon Press for her first YA novel: SON OF A MERMAID, coming in 2013.