YES, AND... The Making Box Brings Improv to Kitchener

It is customary in the improv practice to always say "yes, and" never "but, no." And when you think about it, that's a rule we should carry over into our lives. There will always be situations in which you need to think on your feet, act dynamically and go with the flow. Improv teaches you that in a fun, non-judgemental environment. Just ask Jenna van Klaveren, Local Advocate, founder of CultKW, digital strategist and now... experienced improvist. 

Below she tells the story about how she discovered improv, her experiences and shares an interview with Jay Reid, one of the founders of The Making Box. Although they were originally founded in Guelph, there has been so much local excitement since they've started running workshops right here in Kitchener. For more information or to sign-up, check them out here!

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After a growing fascination with Improvised Comedy thanks to the film Don't Think Twice and the book Yes, And (borrowed from Kitchener Public Library, of course!), I felt compelled to find a local comedy club or community organization that offered the kind close-knit environment touted in all of the improv-themed media I had consumed. Before I even conducted this very important research though, I stumbled upon The Making Box on Twitter purely by chance and I was instantly enamoured by their social presence - without even stepping foot into their physical space, I had already felt a strong sense of community and warmth radiating from their (then) 140 character Tweets. 

Before I even worked up enough courage to begin my own foray into improv, I decided to reach out to The Making Box's Jay Reid to delve a bit deeper into what they were all about. 

Cut to eight months later: I am just about finished my Third Level of classes with The Making Box and have already signed up for Level Four (spaces fill up fast, after all!), I've attended countless shows put on by The Making Box Brigade, performed several times myself during their Student Showcases, met so many amazing weirdos, and even made some ridiculous claims in this promotional video. Needless to say, I am more than a little bit obsessed. 

Read on to learn about what makes The Making Box such a special place from Jay himself: 

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Improv vs Stand-up? What’s the difference?   

I really appreciate this question because some people mistake improv for stand-up and vice versa.

Improv theatre is unscripted theatre. It’s usually performed by an ensemble, who improvise scene(s) inspired by audience suggestions. Stand-up is often one person telling jokes into a microphone.

 If we want to nerd-out a bit, there’s also an interesting relationship between stand-up, improv and spontaneity. Stand-up is a person performing preconceived material, often with the intent to make it appear spontaneous. Where as, improv is people performing spontaneously, often with the intent to make it appear so preconceived. Both are magical when done well.

As a Media and Women’s studies grad, I am partial to funny ladies and have always viewed comedy (and, weirdly enough, horror) as effective platforms for political and social commentary. I noticed that The Making Box hosts “That Time of The Month,” which celebrates feminism and LGBTQ+ communities. Can stand-up events like this, and comedy as a genre, facilitate conversation? How and why?

Yes, comedy is a vehicle to create community and reflect on adversity through a positive lens. It’s a welcoming and powerful way to acknowledge what’s messed-up and make a case for change.

At The Making-Box we aim to put diverse and perspectives voices on stage. This exposes audiences to a wealth of points of view in a fun and supportive environment. The result? People relate to others in ways they may not have thought they could.

The bonus is it goes the other way too. If someone thinks what they are saying is funny and the response is silence (rather than laughter) that will quickly tell them what they’ve said might be harmful. It’s real-time social change.

How can someone get involved in improv through The Making Box? What are the benefits of pursuing a hobby in improv (especially for an anxious, stage-fright-ridden soul like me)?

If the word improv class makes you feel anxious that’s generally normal. It’s new and they’ll be all these strangers in the room! Don’t worry, we’ve been in hundreds of beginner improv classes and that anxiety fades away quickly when you realize you’re in a judgement-free zone where everyone is looking to build fun together. It’s gasoline on a friendship-fire.

People often find improv training leads to both personal or professional growth. It’s fun way to help you become more open, happy and productive. It’s also a practice that often trickles into your relationships, work-life and general well-being too. Yes, improv is challenging, however, our students often say they find a confidence and joy they never knew they had.

If you want to dive into improv at The Making-Box head to themakingbox.ca. Our home base is in Guelph, however since quite a few of our students are driving in from Kitchener/Waterloo we’re offering a Level One Class in downtown Kitchener, as well!

The Making Box seems extremely well-received by the community, with many of your shows ending up sold out – why do you think this is? How do these events help create a sense of community? Do they fill a void or a need?

 The Making-Box has been very well received by our community and our shows and classes do often sell out. We think it’s because laughter is shared experience that creates strong bonds.

There are so many clever, intelligent and interesting people in our community and we’ve merely poked a hole in a bucket of awesome that already existed - now it’s pouring out. We’ve also made performing comedy more accessible. It’s not so intimidating anymore, it’s like learning the guitar.

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The Making Box was nominated for both Innovation Guelph's Start-Up of the Year and The Guelph Chamber of Commerce: Community Spirit Award – what makes the improv and stand-up of The Making Box innovative?

Our world requires us to improvise, so learning to improvise effectively can be the difference between time wasted and time well spent. It’s a valuable skill to a wide range of individuals and organizations. In a given week we may run an improv workshops for a financial institution, a university computer science classroom and then grade twos. On that same weekend we may help an advertising agency celebrate their 10-year anniversary by improvising scenes based on their company history and produce a comedy LGBTQ stand-up show.

All that to say, there are three major services we’re offering at The Making-Box: Improv For Business (our corporate training program), Improv Incubator (our classes for adults and youth) and Live Comedy (our public and private events).

The Making-Box is fortunate to exist in an area that fosters entrepreneurship and innovation. Our community of students and show-goers are incredibly eager, helpful and celebratory.

“Can I come in and help clean?!” It’s rare for your paying customers to ask to help you do your work, right? Not at The Making-Box. This happens all the time.

Is improv an art form? Would you consider yourself an artist?

At The Making-Box we define improv as a framework of listening, connecting and responding that fosters trust, adaptability and productive collaboration. Sure, improv theatre is an art form and improv techniques are also complementary to other artforms too. For example, we often improvise songs in our shows and improv theatre techniques can complement your writing, mental health, dancing ability or marketing campaigns.

And finally, what’s this “heartwarming story” of yours that your website speaks of?! How did the Making Box come to be? I’m intrigued!

When I was a youngster, my Mother built this Rubbermaid tote full of construction paper, pipe-cleaners, glue and the like. It was a platform for my brothers and I to create from. She called it The Making-Box. When it came to naming the movement of people building community through comedy here, there was no better name. The Making-Box; a platform to make happy happen.

The Making Box is located at 43 Cork Street East in downtown Guelph. Visit www.TheMakingBox.ca for more information on classes, upcoming shows and more.