We see a close up on a pair of Converse athletic shoes. As the camera pulls back it reveals a woman walking with a group of people, some are her friends, some are strangers. They are headed for a building located in the middle of Yosemite.
The camera moves to an over the shoulder shot of the woman as she enters into the classroom it’s empty room waiting to be filled with opportunity and wonder.
This is my story of Camp Improv Utopia-Yosemite (CIUY).
Unlike the other CIU camps, CIUY is a dedicated eleven hour intensive weekend studying one improv form under the tutelage of a master improviser.
I chose to study the movie or “House of Movie” taught by Paul Vaillancourt. Paul has had an influence on everyone’s improv journey whether they know it or not.
The House of Movie is quite technical with lots of moving parts. I mean A LOT of moving parts.
Underneath all of that, like any form, it comes down to the two person scene. Listening and reacting to what is there in front of you in that very moment. You also need to think globally and know there is a bigger picture in play. It is built to push boundaries and expand your abilities beyond what you thought was capable.
House of Movie lived up to it’s reputation!
CIUY, like all CIU camps is much more than the time in the classroom. It is the moments in between. The moments where you process, connect, reflect, and experience life outside classes, rehearsals, teaching, and the stage.
I spend my time back home running AdLib Theatre on both the business and artistic side, perform nearly every Saturday night and teach at least 3 times a week. Frankly, that’s a lot of improv and lately it has been taking more than giving.
When you reach that point it’s time for a break!
CIUY is the break I needed. Touring Yosemite filled with the wonder of nature puts life in perspective. Doing bits, “I have a bad wi-fi signal, okay, love you bye”, and the quiet moments sitting on the porch just riffing, catching up, and giggling were some of my favorite.
A tradition at CIU are the campfire chats. Our teachers and mentors share stories of their teachers and mentors. I love this tradition. The handing down stories from one generation to the next ensures improv’s survival.
Not much ruffles my feathers and getting super sappy and emotional in front of other people is a big deal for me which is exactly what happened at the campfire. I didn’t get to really say what I wanted with all the tears so here it is:
“I don’t want to wait until someone is dead and gone to let them know how much they are loved and what an impact they have on those around them. There are three people here tonight I want to know are my heroes, mentors, and friends. They have and will continue to make an impact on me and this world that will create ripple effects for years to come. Thank you Nick Armstrong, Max McCal, and Paul Vaillancourt! My improv and more importantly my life is better because you are part of it.”
The House of Movie also gave me an opportunity I never imagined. There was a student in our class who had never taken improv prior to CIUY! How brave is she? I mean that is fearless and inspiring and wow, that is all I can say, WOW!
First day of class and the exercise is reflection scenes. These are two person scenes just spending a few minutes working the improv muscles. I was on the backline and people were starting to play. I could see how nervous our new player was. I moved over and asked her to remind me of her name. I then whispered, when I go out, just step out with me. She nodded her head.
A few scenes go by and it’s our turn. We step out together and she was AMAZING! This is why I do improv! To get the chance to see someone fall in love in a single moment with this art form. Thank you Kristen so much for allowing me to be part of your improv journey!
The House of Movie and CIUY was an experience like no other. I met new people, deepened connections, expanded my vision and had the chance to be a student, hone skills, and fall back in love with improv.
We close up on a pair of hands typing. As the camera begins to pull back, we see a woman typing on a computer inside an airplane. You can see she has been crying but has a big smile on her face. Her journey is just beginning.
And the scene fades to black…..