June 2019 Letter from Ben: summer updates!

Executive Director Benjamin Lloyd

Executive Director Benjamin Lloyd

It’s our first summer without our summer camp, and while we miss our kids don’t think for a minute that we are taking a break! Check out some of the cool stuff we’re working on this summer!

Ensemble

We had our best, and best-attended Improvasushi show last Saturday June 3rd. We even had to add chairs to our audience seating in the Tokio Ballroom! Don't miss our next show Saturday July 13th!

We are proud and excited to announce that we applied and were accepted to two improv festivals!

The Bright Invention Ensemble.

The Bright Invention Ensemble.

In development are two cool partnerships, both involving Dinner with Friends - our shared meal followed by a show:

  • For Project HOME, we envision Dinner with Friends for a blended audience at a Project Home site.

  • For co-working spaces 1776 and WeWork, we imagine the show as a fundraiser for a local nonprofit with discounted tickets for co-working members.

Stand by as Dinner with Friends takes shape!

Creative Corporate Training

Ensemble members Carlo Campbell and Kaitlin Chin performing at a recent CCT workshop.

Ensemble members Carlo Campbell and Kaitlin Chin performing at a recent CCT workshop.

Speaking of WeWork, we are bringing our CCT demo to the WeWork space in Northern Liberties, Tuesday June 18th, 10:30 AM - Noon. This is part of a growing partnership with Throw Like A Woman Consulting. Learn more about this demo by clicking here!

We continue our work with West Philadelphia Skills Initiative, and Cooperstein Hospitality. Coming next fall, workshops for The Lebow School of Business at Drexel and Community Associations Institute of New Jersey.

If you know of anyone who might be interested in our improv-inspired, scenario-based workshops, please refer us! We are happy to bring our demo to your site! Here is the CCT website.

Education

Two Carousel Connections students studying improv with us last summer.

Two Carousel Connections students studying improv with us last summer.

We have three classes in the works this summer!

  • We kicked off our Summer Improv Jam last Thursday at Cheltenham Center for the Arts. We have 10 wonderful adult students learning from me and ensemble member Shea Sonsky!

  • On June 26th I will begin teaching an improv class for adults with disabilties at Carousel Connections. This is a continuation of work begun last summer.

  • Also on the 26th, ensemble member Kiersten Adams and I will co-teach at The Village: Hope in Action of Children and Families. This is a new initiative and we are excited to learn more about this extraordinary community!

Shakespeare in the Summer

Our annual co-production with Pulley & Buttonhole Theatre Company is off and running. This year, we tackle our first non-comedy, Macbeth! Working on this production are ensemble members Shea Sonsky, Eric Walker, Benjamin Lloyd and Josh Kirwin.

Don’t miss this fun outdoor production at Abington Art Center, August 5, 6, 7 and 8th at 7 pm! Pay what you can! Show webpage coming soon . . .

Production still of last summer’s  Twelfth Night  featuring ensemble member Kaitlin Chin.

Production still of last summer’s Twelfth Night featuring ensemble member Kaitlin Chin.

Creative Corporate Training demo Monday May 20th 12 noon!

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Monday May 20th, 12 noon

Free demonstration

Benjamin Lloyd facilitates with three Bright Invention performance assistants for a recent CCT workshop

Benjamin Lloyd facilitates with three Bright Invention performance assistants for a recent CCT workshop

Bright Invention's Creative Corporate Training program employs an innovative, scenario-based approach to team-building, customer service and workplace culture enhancement. We use structured improvisations we design specifically for each client, which embody issues or themes the client wants their team to examine. 

Unlike other improv-based training programs, we do not make you role play! We do the acting - you do the problem solving.

Monday May 20th 

Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia
Conference Center, Engagement Room, 
200 S. Broad St, Suite 700, Philadelphia, PA 19102

  • Note new time: Social time 11:30 am - 12 noon

  • Demo 12 noon - 12:45 PM

  • Free - refreshments served

  • Bring friends!

Please RSVP

Check out our slide show:



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Bright Invention PO Box 8870 Elkins Park, PA  19027
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May 2019 Letter from Ben: "How do you do that . . . ?"

Benjamin Lloyd and Shea Sonsky in an improv scene at Bright Invention rehearsal

Benjamin Lloyd and Shea Sonsky in an improv scene at Bright Invention rehearsal

One of the most frequent comments we get after our shows is . . . “how do you do that?” Our audiences are interested in which parts of the show we know about in advance and which parts we don’t. So we thought we’d take you behind the curtain for bit, and share a show with you on video.

Most actors rehearse and perform scripts. Improv actors rehearse and perform forms (or formats). A form is a sequence of performed events, and that’s what we practice and memorize - a sequence of events. A script is also a sequence of events, but with a script what happens in those events is predetermined. Not so with improv.

Suzanne Anderson and Kaitlin Chin in an improv scene at Bright Invention rehearsal

Suzanne Anderson and Kaitlin Chin in an improv scene at Bright Invention rehearsal

Our form is a called The Sun and its Planets. It is unique to Bright Invention, and it was developed over a year or so, led by Artistic Director Benjamin Lloyd. It follows one central relationship through three “acts”, as the pair in that relationship evolve and meet some interesting and occasionally hilarious people along the way. That central scene is “the Sun scene”. The other actors who appear around it are “the Planets.”

Here is the Sun and its Planets sequence every member of Bright Invention knows by heart:

  1. Sun scene act 1 (actors A & B)

  2. Dueling monologues (actors C & D)

  3. Sun scene act 2 (actors A & B)

  4. Dueling monologues (actors E & F)

  5. Sun scene act 3 (actors A & B)

  6. Final monologues ( actors ? & ?)

Ideally we have six actors for this form (we can do it with four): two as the Sun scene, and four as the Planets. The content of the form is inspired by a conversation we have with our audience before we begin. We perform this form again and again . . . and we’ve never done the same show twice!

Now here's what we don’t know before we perform The Sun and its Planets:

  • which of us will be the Sun scene and which of us will be the Planets.

  • who the characters will be in the Sun scene, how they are connected, where they are, and what they are working out together.

  • who the Planet characters are, when/if they will appear in the Sun scenes, and what they do or talk about.

  • who will do the first dueling monologues and who will do the second dueling monologues and who they will be and what they will talk about.

Want to learn more? Consider joining us this summer for our Summer Improv Jam on Thursday nights!

Meanwhile - here’s a video of The Sun and its Planets as performed on April 6th, 2019. It features Benjamin Lloyd, Kiersten Adams, Aimee Goldstein, Eric Walker Jr., Shea Sonsky, Bob Stineman and Suzanne Anderson.


New ensemble photos by Sarah Bloom Photography!

We invited professional photographer Sarah Bloom into our rehearsal recently and she took some pix! Check out the gallery below. Next show is STAR WARS DAY! May the Fourth be with you - the force is strong in this Improvasushi!

2019 March letter from Ben - The Commedia Connection.

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With this post I launch “Letters from Ben”, the replacement for the monthly newsletter we used to generate. At the beginning of each month I will post a rumination of sorts about the work Bright Invention is doing some area. My goal is to create a personal connection to you through writing. I hope you like it. Feel free to comment and ask questions!

***
As some of you know, Bright Invention is an extension of a strange collision of concerns of mine. On the one hand, a concern for the extraordinary genius of the actor; how we are descended from a lineage of celebrities, vagabonds, eccentrics and seers beginning with tribal shamen, who were healers as well as performers. On the other hand, an interest in the economic pressures on the modern American performing artist; how commercial forces dehumanize this most human of all artists, turning us into things which are bought and sold, and capitalizing on our ambition and vulnerability for profit.

Antonio Fava

Antonio Fava

Recently, in preparing our show we are calling Improvasushi!, I began to understand that what I am interested in doing is a 21st century version of the Renaissance Italian theater known as commedia dell’arte. And the more I explored this connection, the more excited I became. I studied commedia for two extraordinary weeks in 2006 with the acknowledged master of the form, Antonio Fava. I was entranced, not only by Fava’s energetic and elaborate teaching style, but by the boldness and creativity of commedia itself. You can read about this experience more fully in my personal blog here. For Fava, commedia the performance style cannot be understood without understanding commedia the economic entity. “Commedia dell arte means ‘professional theatre!’” Fava would bellow. And he explained that these companies (and they called themselves companies) were the first western example of professional actors.

A commedia company arrives

A commedia company arrives

I left that experience regarding the commedia actor as heroic: perfecting the performance of stock characters within unscripted plots - the shows were enormous structured improvisations - and at the same time, being occasionally persecuted by prelates and nobility, suspicious of these actors with bawdy senses of humor, and smarting from the satire they put on display. The shows, Fava explained, were not only un-scripted, they were calibrated and adapted to the specific audiences they were being performed for. They were breathtakingly immediate and personal to the people watching on that day (always in the day of course - no electricity.) I found myself moved and inspired.

Our ensemble Bright Invention practices and performs long form improvisation. What’s that, you ask? Well, good luck finding a succinct definition, and if you do please let me know. Here’s a short Medium article about long form improv which also has some useful links. And here’s my little snapshot:

  • Short form improv is what most people think of when you say “improv”: short, absurd and silly scenes and sketches based on audience suggestions.

  • If short form uses clever ideas to generate laughs, long form explores deep relationships to reveal shared humanity. Long form is based in realism, short form is not.

  • Long form is often funny, but it doesn’t have to be. Once improvisation is freed from the requirement to be funny, entire galaxies of experience open up.

  • Long form is “long” because the relationships between characters developed in shows continue through the entire show. This is seldom the case in short form.

  • Short form is often a means to an end, the end being scripted sketch comedy based on improv. Long form is the end itself.

But our ensemble is also dedicated to “expanding the genre” and it is in this vein that we will begin to merge our work with some of the traditions and approaches of the commedia companies. We will begin to include rehearsed performance in our improvised long form shows. As with the commedia companies our shows will begin and end with rehearsed music and song. And we will soon begin to develop lazzi - rehearsed, solo set pieces sometimes comic, sometimes not, performed by individual members of the ensemble, and inserted into our shows. What these little solos are, and how they appear in our shows remains to be seen. But what I am sure of is that they will showcase the remarkable range of talent in our ensemble, from music and singing, to spoken word poetry, to dance and circus performance, to clown and physical comedy.

Some of us, exhausted, after the IMPROVATHON!

Some of us, exhausted, after the IMPROVATHON!

What we won’t borrow from commedia are the masks and precisely organized performances of stock characters. But we do strive to have the same sense of immediate and personal audience connection that commedia companies thrived on. And, as with these extraordinary Renaissance ensembles, we are determined to explore new paradigms to support the economic needs of the modern American actor through our corporate training work.

Stay tuned!

Announcing . . . IMPROVASUSHI!

It's a match made in heaven:

Improvasushi!

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What? Longform improv and sushi!
When? First Saturdays at 8 pm beginning Saturday March 2nd!
Where? 

Madame Saito's Tokio Headhouse Sushi
122 Lombard St
Philadelphia, PA 19147

Madame Saito’s on Lombard Street in Society Hill, off of Headhouse Square . . .

Madame Saito’s on Lombard Street in Society Hill, off of Headhouse Square . . .

Sushi and improv . . . they go together like . . . well, they just go together! Especially now as Bright Invention launches our downtown shows upstairs in the Tokio Ballroom at Mademe Saito's!

Come at 7 for drinks and sushi downstairs, then come up to the ballroom for our special brand of intimate, immersive improvisation!

Easy to remember dates: first Saturdays! Easy to locate venue: just off of Headhouse Square in Society Hill, Philadelphia!

Some of the Bright Invention ensemble

Some of the Bright Invention ensemble

Sushi + improv = joy!

  • World class Japanese cusine

  • Full bar

  • Our hour-long show begins at 8 pm

  • Dinner and a show - what's not to love?

Click the button below to reserve show tickets. Restaurant reservations please call: (215) 815-8266

Show tickets click here!


IMPROVATHON! It's a wrap!

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9 improvisers. 6 hours of #improv. 6 special guests. Many cookies/donuts/pringles. And . . . we shattered our goal! $1,025 raised for The William Way LGBT Community Center! Thank you to Arch Street Meetinghouse for being such generous hosts, lots of audience dropping in throughout the day, and our amazing Inventors! Improvathon 2019 has come to an end with great success!

Here’s a slide show! Click on the image to go to the next one!




IMPROVATHON Update!

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The William Way LGBT Center located on Spruce Street, Philadelphia.

The William Way LGBT Center located on Spruce Street, Philadelphia.

For Philly Theater Week 2019 we are presenting THE IMPROVATHON! to raise money for the William Way LGBT Community Center. On Saturday February 9th at Arch Street Quaker Meeting House, we will begin improvising at 10 am and won’t stop until we have raised $500 for William Way! 

Saturday, February 9th, 10 am - ???

Arch Street Meetinghouse, 320 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA. 19106

FREE - reserve a seat by clicking here

Here is our schedule of Special Guests!

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10 am - 11 am. Tara Demmy! Tara Demmy is a comedian, theatre artist, and teacher straddling both Philly and DC. She trained at the Upright Citizens Brigade NYC, Philly Improv Theater, and completed her Lecoq training at Helikos: International School of Theater Creation in Italy. She is a proud company member of Tribe of Fools where she performed in Fishtown – A Hipster Noir, Antihero, Zombies with Guns, and Shut Your Wormhole. She is a writer and performer with ManiPedi Sketch Comedy. Tara received her masters from
Villanova University and is currently pursing her PhD in Theatre and Performance Studies at University of Maryland. tarademmy.com

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11 am - 12 noon. Michelle Pauls! Michelle Pauls is a theatre artist, artist educator and mom. She has worked for many years in the Philadelphia area doing theatre, film work, cabaret singing and improv! In fact, she was one of the founding members of Bright Invention. She also teaches theatre and the like in the college setting. www.michellepauls.com 






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12 noon - 1 pm. Ed Miller! Ed Miller is an actor, director, and writer from the Philadelphia area. He has worked with the Arden Theatre, Theatre Exile, Swim Pony, The IRC, and Secret Room Theatre. Ed spent 3 years living and teaching in South Korea where he also made time to act, direct, and serve on the board of Seoul Players. He was a founding member of SCI: Seoul City Improv and graced the TV screens for young "English-hungry" Koreans on such programs as "Story Time", "T-Girl!", and "Cooking with Red Hood”. Ed is a current proud member of Tongue and Groove Spontaneous Theatre.

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1 pm - 2 pm. Brian Anthony Wilson! Brian has been on numerous Philly stages, feature films like The Postman, Creed and Limitless; and TV shows The Wire, Hack and Law and Order.








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2 pm - 3 pm. Sharon Geller! Sharon Geller is a comedic actress who has appeared on Saturday Night Live 4 times. In addition to performing in the national touring company of the off-Broadway show “Old Jews Telling Jokes,” Sharon does radio and TV commercials and teaches improv at the Walnut Street Theatre. She trained with Chicago City Limits. www.sharongeller.com. 


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3 pm - 4 pm. Joy Wier! Joy Suzanne Weir has been an improviser for the last seven years. She is a company member of Tongue & Groove Spontaneous Theatre. Some of her favorite scripted roles include Leonardo's Wife in Philadelphia Artists Collective's performance of Blood Wedding and Blackberry in Simpatico Theatre Project's Watership Down. She has also been a teaching artist for various companies including Bright Invention's sister company, White Pines Productions. She is very excited, and a little scared, to be part of the Improvathon. Let's get weird.

 

Each hour will feature:

  • fun with our special guest!

  • a spoof of a popular film or TV genre!

  • Bright Invention’s long form The Sun and its Planets!

The Arch Street Meetinghouse, 320 Arch Street Philadelphia. Site of THE IMPROVATHON!

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Free parking - enter on 4th street between Arch and Market!

Complimentary light refreshments served.

Wheelchair accessible.

Stop by any time; see some, leave, and return; BRING FRIENDS!

Donations for William Way accepted in person with cash, check or online through Facebook Donate button located here: donate online.

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The Improvathon is a part of Philly Theater Week! Please check out all the other amazing shows being presented - click here!

Bright Invention will be part of another great event the very next day! Rehearsing Improv: It’s not an Oxymoron! Co- presented with Tongue & Groove Spontaneous Theatre, this is a fun and free “peek behind the scene” to see how improvisers create shows! Click here for tickets!

Ability in Action

Participants in Acting Out!

Participants in Acting Out!

Ability In Action is a comprehensive, immersive and experiential program for youth and young adults living with a disability. Ability In Action utilizes performance creativity and embodied activities to enhance social skills, verbal and physical expression, communication and self determination. Here’s what Bright Invention is up to this winter/spring in Ability in Action:

Acting Out! is open to all youth and young adults with ASD, Aspergers, or any Physical or Developmental Disability. This class introduces basics of acting and collaboration in a safe and structured environment. Students will engage in an opening ritual at the beginning of each class and will gradually be introduced to games and activities over the course of the class semester. The final class will feature a share for family and friends based on the comfort level of students. This class is open to youth between 10 and 20 years old (but we’re flexible!) and is currently held at the Cheltenham Center for the Arts. Class begins February 24 - click here!

Stepping Out! Let us come to you and co-create fun and meaningful workshops and classes for your amazing community! Participants engage in Storytelling, Drama, Movement and Improvisation activities which explore specific themes curated to each group we work with. One workshop may explore the challenges in day to day workplace interactions while other workshops may help participants talk about relationships. Each Ability in Action experience addresses the personalized goals and needs of the participants. If you are interested in bringing Ability In Action to your organization or community. Please reach out today!

Participants in a Stepping Out! class this past summer at Common Space.

Participants in a Stepping Out! class this past summer at Common Space.

This winter we are offering Real Life Drama as part of Stepping Out! In this class we will create scenes about Real Life - the ups and downs, the highs and lows, the sweet and sour! Using a fun technique called "structured improvisation" we will play games, do some exercises and act in scenes we invent together. At the end of the class we might even do a show for our friends and families! This class is held in Ardmore at Common Space. Class begins February 23rd - click here!

Ability In Action builds a safe and supportive (and fun!) social environment which encourages risk-taking, deeper relationships and personal growth through embodied techniques and ensemble building. We love to work on special projects with blended groups. Examples of our special projects include developing an original holiday musical based on the arrangements of Fred Waring, an original production for the gala fundraising event supporting the Philly Friendship Circle, and an original play written and performed by one of our Acting Out! graduates. Got an idea? We want to hear it!

The IMPROVATHON returns!

Bright Invention presents the return of . . . 

 

The Improvathon!

The Bright Invention Ensemble

The Bright Invention Ensemble

Blanka Zizka spanking Benjamin Lloyd onstage at IMPROVATHON 2014

Blanka Zizka spanking Benjamin Lloyd onstage at IMPROVATHON 2014

In December of 2014 the improv group Bright Invention accomplished the unthinkable: they improvised for 24 hours straight in Philly’s first Improvathon! At that historic event, they were joined onstage by Philly arts and culture luminaries such as Brian Anthony Wilson (Creed, The Wire), Sharon Geller (Saturday Night Live), and Blanka Zizka, Artistic director for the Wilma Theatre who spanked Bright invention Artistic Director Benjamin Lloyd on stage during an improv! 

Now for Philly Theater Week 2019 they will bring the Improvathon back, this time to raise money for the William Way LGBT Community Center. That’s right on Saturday February 9that Arch Street Quaker Meeting House, they will begin improvising and won’t stop until they have raised $500 for William Way! 

 

But wait – there’s more!

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In order for them stop improvising – Gritty must show up! That’s right! Achieving their philanthropic goals is not enough! Philly’s new mascot sensation must appear at this feat of creative endurance in order to save them from improvising themselves into an early grave! 

What will happen on February 9th? Will Bright Invention raise enough money for Philly’s LGBT champions? Will the great orange-bearded monster appear? Will members of the ensemble expire from exhaustion, giggle fits and hallucinations? What special guests will appear on stage to support them?

The William Way LGBT Community Center, Philadelphia.

The William Way LGBT Community Center, Philadelphia.

Click here for tickets!

Don’t miss this epic improv event! 

  • Date and time:

  • Saturday February 9th, 10 am - ?

  • Location

  • Arch Street Meeting House, 320 Arch St. Philadelphia, PA 19106

Arch Street Quaker Meeting House, 4th & Arch Streets, Philadelphia: the location of the IMPROVATHON 2019!

Arch Street Quaker Meeting House, 4th & Arch Streets, Philadelphia: the location of the IMPROVATHON 2019!

Tickets are free – donations accepted for The William Way LGBT Community Center

Contact: 

Benjamin Lloyd

877-674-8338

ben@brightinvention.org

www.brightinvention.org

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