Photo by Mike Palma.

Photo by Mike Palma.

East West Players Does Improv!

by Carolina San Juan (Arts Education Director, East West Players)

Very few know of my past as a ballroom dancer. Filipino Americans will know what I’m taking about—it was the 90s, and we joked that the cha-cha should be the Philippine national dance. My master’s thesis is actually entitled, “A Colonized Body’s Dance into Being: Negotiating Identity through Filipino American Ballroom Dance.”

I don’t share this experience very often because inevitably someone will ask me to demonstrate, and really—that was almost twenty years ago. But I apply the skills I learned on the ballroom dance floor in everyday life. For every lecture, meeting, and presentation, I feel the “temp” of the room/audience by watching facial expressions and postures. I then rely on my intuition to react and respond to comments and body language. Likewise, improv relies on insights that each performer creates for the next move.

On November 16, ACTS members and I participated in a workshop with The Groundlings, an improvisation and sketch comedy theatre that has been entertaining LA audiences for over 40 years. Phyllis Katz (founding member of The Groundlings and a very active teacher) led our group of 14 through several exercises where we worked to stay on topic, always provide more details (questions leave your partner hanging and ends the sketch), and rely on the connection between partners over the relationship between actor and audience.

It was exhilarating to perform the very first thought that entered your mind. We worked a number of activities, including, “Yes, and…then”, where we learned to add to our partner’s statements. For example, if your partner starts with, “I went to the store,” you would respond with, “Yes, and then… you ran into your ex.” Your partner would continue, saying, “Yes, and then… my ex wanted to get back together.” And so on.

We learned to appreciate and trust one another, our gut impulses, and the process that fosters authentic connections and performances.

East West Players is planning our next improv workshop with The Groundlings for January 2017, which will be led by Karen Maruyama. This workshop is a special opportunity for members to learn from an Asian American woman, whose acting credits include Nip/Tuck, Ghost Whisperer, The Simpsons, The Bucket List, and Who’s Line Is It Anyway?

Please stay tuned for the exact date! Cha-cha!