Author Archives: Syracuse Improv Collective

4th Annual ‘A Little Spark’ Show

When my daughter asked me at dinner why I was so sad, I told her, “brain problems”.

How do you explain depression to a 3-year-old? ‘Actually, sweetie, Daddy can’t feel anything, except a consuming emptiness. Sadness would be a relief.’

As I neared rock bottom, one lingering thought kept me from ending my life: a vision of my wife, heart broken, explaining to our distraught child that Daddy was gone.

*  *  *

Chances are, you know this story too well. Suicide rates in America have been rising for decades. I got help. I’m still here, and I intend to do something about it.

Victory over mental illness can never be a solo affair. In despair, paranoia, or mania, a broken mind feeds on the same terrors that break it. Self-harm seems right to an imagination that cannot see beyond its chains.

Help must come from outside. Professional help in the form of counseling and doctor-administered medication can win the day. Never underestimate the power you have to positively impact someone who is suffering from mental illness. They need a whole team of supporters to recover. A smile, a shared laugh, a compliment – you can help save someone’s life in the smallest ways.

* * *

For the fourth year, we are sharing our support of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention with the benefit show ‘A Little Spark’.

This year we are honored to take our show to the Everson Museum of Art’s stage. This will be a truly special variety show, with appearances from local musicians Greg Maslyn and Gary Carpentier (from The Voice), stand up comedian James Fedkiw, the premiere Rochester sketch team Thank You Kiss, and some of your favorite SIC teams. Our host is the incomparable AFSP advocate, Anthony DeMario.

 

The deets: December 16, 1:00 – 3:30pm, doors open at 12:30pm, Admission $10

Please help us support this good cause. AFSP raises awareness, funds scientific research, and provides resources for those affected by suicide. You can purchase show tickets in advance, here.

For a person suffering under despair, only someone outside can shine a light at the end of the tunnel. And so we will help how we can, igniting that light with a little spark.

Goodbye, Mike Borden

Last night we bid our founder and friend Mike Borden a fond farewell with an epic six-team show. It was a fitting goodbye, representing the culmination of all Mike’s hard work behind the scenes as our fearless educational leader. Mike put in more time, sweat, and love into growing our Collective than anyone. Most every team has his coaching fingerprints on them; he built our level one curriculum and class programming from the ground up; his performances are consistently damn funny; 90% of Collectivists learned improv from him.

And yet, I’m not going to miss Mike Borden at all.

Gentlemen, To Bed! (Jeremy, Mike, and Joe)

Whenever Mike was on stage last night, I had a strange, magic sensation. For once, the improv I was watching was permanent. Mike gifts Collective students a motto, and it hinges on improv’s disposable nature. ‘We suck, and we love to fail!’ is our class cheer, a tongue-in-cheek creed focused on self-improvement. In improv, scenes come and go. Nothing is precious, so we make the most of our art in the moment and keep growing. Last night, moment by moment, Mike positively danced on stage. Every line and gesture felt masterfully planned, like that sublime top-shelf compliment for improv comedy: it felt written. By the end of Gentlemen To Bed’s set (one of Mike’s first, classic teams), the audience applauded like never before, earning the rarest of improv accolades – an encore. I felt as though Mike was engaged in a never-ending dance with us, like we were all on his team and every laugh was a gift, a physical treasure to hold in your gut and keep safe for years and years.

Mike leads a class show performance

I won’t miss Mike Borden, because last night I felt certain that he will be with us eternally. His legacy in the SIC is tangible. Between all the classes and shows, Mike showed us all the real power of Yes, And. Everyone wanted to work with Mike Borden, because he is inspirational and so good to work with. Mike is one of the nicest people around, just as present in his day-to-day conversation as he is on stage. He has an inventor’s mind for his art and always looks for new adventures: different venues, a podcast, a livestream marathon. And he put in so much work. Here is a self-sacrificing leader whose dogged pursuit of awesomeness raises the bar. He is a man of integrity, helping steer our little Collective with the future always in mind.

Mike Borden the improviser will always be with the Syracuse Improv Collective. He gave so much, he’s part of us already.

Once this change actually sinks in, I’m going to finally miss Mike. But when I do, I’ll do it on stage with a strong emotional reaction, like he taught me, or by ‘listening and being changed’. Most of all, in between memories of craft beers, board games, wild stories, and his enormous, generous laugh – I will miss Mike – my buddy, pal, and friend.

Peace out, man. Good luck in Portland.

Behold all the friendly cuteness you are getting, Portland

Jen and Mike being adorable

-PG

Down With The SICness

Greetings, improv fans! In addition to our usual shows and classes, we have two special items to share.

A few weeks ago this writer had the pleasure of performing in a short film produced by our friends, Etc. Pictures and Out There Productions. ‘No Nuts’ is a rom com set at a camp for kids who have peanut allergies; there were eleven local children in the cast. Not only did the kids get to perform in a movie, they also paired with mentors on set and took a weekend-long character-building workshop. The Kickstarter for this project is active for less than 48 hours – you can watch the ‘No Nuts’ trailer and learn more here.

Kids on the 'No Nuts' set
In between shots on set, I was asked to lead improv exercises to energize the kids and get them focused. I wrote about the experience in a blog post on their Kickstarter. If you’re a teacher, parent, or great-step-uncle once removed, check out the link for some helpful and fun tools for keeping kids engaged.

MAKIN’ VIDEOS

Last night we wrapped a fun new experiment. Above is a ~1.5 hour improv MARATHON, performed by SIC team Heavy Metal Heat Wave. This was a blast. As expected for a trial run, we ran into some AV issues, but most of the set is good and legible. This performance was also in support of our friends’ Kickstarter. The team set out to perform a 30-minute set, and continued performing for five more minutes every time we got a new backer. Keep your eyes peeled for more fun videos like this one in the future! Here’s the best link we can offer for last night’s show.

ONE LAST SPECIAL ITEM

Every year we send a team to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Out Of The Darkness walk (team donation page HERE), and put on a charity show to support the cause. Please look forward to a weekend in November when you can join us and help people affected by suicide. It’s a cause near to our hearts, and we appreciate everyone who has supported our Little Spark productions.

Thrive ‘n’ Jive!

Earlier this year, we had the privilege of hosting Etc. Pictures at our drop-in classes. The results of that adventure are on display in tomorrow night’s show:

Short Doc Kalyse

‘Kalyse’ is a short doc about a young man finding his voice through improv. In this writer’s humble opinion, it is akin to a mini Hoop Dreams, for improv. We are so grateful Kalyse and the film crew joined us and included us in their story. We hope this is just the beginning of our story. Etc. has a great vision for helping young adults in the community grow through storytelling. Watch out for more Etc./SIC collaborations in the future.

So Much Goodness

Are you looking to learn something new? Stretch out of your comfort zone? Or get refreshed on improv and join up with the Collective?

Level One class is open on August 19. The cost is still $75 for the six-week class. We meet Saturday mornings, 10 AM to Noon, at Echo on 745 North Salina. Register today!!!

We have three shows in August!

August 5 – Bank Show at Jazz Central w/ Kalyse short doc
August 12 – Movie Workshop Show at Nancy Cantor Warehouse (Level 4 class show – we still have room for experienced improvisers to attend!)
August 19 – Tournament Show at NCW – Collectivists, sign up soon!

See you soon!

SIC Stays Active!

We’ve been down at local establishments working on our comedic fitness – Mike and Mike are our witness!
Mike Baker and Mike Intaglietta perform at our open mic Non-SICIf you want to stay Improv Strong(TM), you have to keep stretching your improv muscles. So we’ve done a lot of cool things:

The Return of the Non-SIC!

Our esteemed open mic event, the Non-SICuitur, makes a courageous return once a month on Thursdays at 7:30PM, at 512 Wescott Street. Come try out a new improv form, play with folks you’ve always dreamed of improvising with, test out a stand-up routine, or play some sweet live music…surprise us!

Continuing Education!

Last year’s big addition to our improv fitness program was drop-in classes, where we expertly balance lessons for experts and novices in the same night. This year we are doubling down on our commitment to our experienced players…
Syracuse Improv Classes Level 4 Our new Level 4 classes are offered exclusively to active Collectivists who have completed Levels 1-3. This is a chance to dive real deep. The focus of each class is unique and decided by our teachers. That way, every class is a special experience led by a specialized instructor.

Our pilot Level 4 class led by SIC founders Mike Borden and Joe Blum was a hit. The dynamic duo taught long-form, slow-burn duo performances. Students Learned Improv Hard(TM) from our brightest for 5 hours, then put on a show! Look forward to similar opportunities in the near future.
Justin Peters and Kelly Buttermore, Improv TeachersAs many fitness aficionados and Muddy Waters have said, ‘I just can’t be satisfied!’ We are proud to be bringing in expert improv teachers Kelly Buttermore and Justin Peters to lead two workshops on April 29. SIC Collectivists, stay tuned for more info!

That’s all for now!

Come on out to our bank show on April 8 🙂 See you around!

InterFaith Works Benefit Show!

The refugee community is an integral part of Upstate New York’s culture, and we are proud of our city’s history of accepting and supporting refugees. It’s our honor to give whatever small support we can to the people who do tireless work on behalf of those in need.

On Friday, March 3rd at 8 PM we invite you to our ‘I Lift My Lamp’ charity improv show benefiting InterFaith Works. CNY Playhouse is hosting us, and they have generously waived all fees – every dollar you donate at the show will go directly to InterFaith. Expect some of your favorite Syracuse Improv Collective teams to bring their A+ games. We hope to see you there!

Feb-yoo-airy

We have a couple cool shows coming up!

This Saturday, 2/11 at 8, it’s throwback time! Join us at the funky hunky art house, SPARK. Featuring some favorite classic teams:

HAZMAT Love
No Friends, Just Benefits
Satan’s Closet
…and the timely return of our dearly beloved…
Gentlemen, to Bed!

On Sunday 2/19, we’ll join the stage with SU’s Zamboni Revolution for our second Happenings CNY show! Storytellers with prepared yarns inspire our improv in Your Story’s Not Safe With Us @ Red House at 6:30.

That’s all for now! We love all our new friends from drop-in Tuesdays. Please stop by again next time on 2/14!

Wow. I just realized I scheduled a drop-in on Valentine’s Day.

Jan. ’17 – Intro to Improv is FULL

Hello, intrepid website visitors!

We are having technical difficulties with the Classes page. (Please have pity on us.)

The January ’17 Intro to Improv class is, in fact, full. However, you may sign up in advance for the June/July session.

PLUS – check it out! Drop-in classes are returning on Tuesday, January 17th! We meet bi-weekly Tuesday nights, 6:45 – 8:45, at Echo Design Studio on 745 N. Salina Street, for just $10. This is a great opportunity to try improv if you’re new, learn something fresh if you’re old, and generally play with all sorts of fun new people if you’re middle-aged.

That analogy got lost somewhere around the college years. See you soon!

A Time For Laughter and A Time For LOLz

We’ve been busy little bees, and we have some exciting news for all 3 of you who don’t follow us on Facebook. (Hi, Dan!) Without further ado:

#1 – 2017 Class Registration is Now Open! 

Last year saw a great bunch of new students join the Collective, perhaps the best ever. We are so happy to play with and teach all these fun, talented people from Syracuse and beyond! (Say Hi to Aaron from Fort Drum! (Hi, Aaron!)). This year two of our teachers are brand new to the SIC and bring a treasure trove of experience from out-of-town. LOVE IT.

Classes really do fill up quickly now, so please register if you would like to come have fun learning with us!

#2 – December 18 – “Your Story’s Not Safe With Us!”

We are THRILLED to be collaborating with our new best friends at Salt City Story Slam in a joint show. Three improv teams will perform sets inspired by three prepared stories. The featured teams are: HEAVY METAL HEAT WAVE, SATAN’S CLOSET, and the debut of the SIC’s very first, as-yet-unnamed, all-women’s team!

7PM @ Jazz Central, $5

your-story-not-safe

#3 – December 10 – Class with Philip Markle & Graduation Show!

During the day, sixteen Collectivists will be learning from improv teacher extraordinaire Philip Markle. We will report back to you soon on our experience with Philip’s ‘Burn Your Fear’ workshop. Additionally, students from the class will perform in a show that night…which more importantly features our Level 3 graduates!

The show will be held in the auditorium on the first floor of the Nancy Cantor Warehouse, 350 W Fayette St, at 8 PM. These students have worked hard to bring you all the laughter and LOLz. Please come root them on! Admission is free.

That’s all for now!

Keep your eyes open for incoming news about 2017 drop-in classes, as well as more editorial-style posts for this site.

WE LOVE YOU, SYRACUSE.

Suicide: If You Have Any Questions, Please Raise Your Hand


2014:

the year Robin Williams died. All across news networks, suicide became front & center. Opinions kept silent were now out in the open. “What a tragedy!” “How sad!” “What a coward!” Mental health experts were being asked by media outlets for insight. How could someone who brought joy to so many be that depressed? Over time, it’s been said that Robin’s diagnosis of Lewy Body Dementia—a degenerative brain disease—played a crucial part in his suicide. Regardless, people were holding an open discussion about psychological diagnoses and treatment on the news, blogs, Facebook, and at work.

2002:
the year my brother died. I was the youngest of 3 brothers: Michael, Jonathan, and Stephen. My brother Michael had been struggling with bipolar disorder for quite some time, experiencing powerful highs and despairing lows. Finding the right medication and dosage was always a difficult transition. At the age of 22, he ended his own life. I remember running into an old friend from High School. I asked, “How’ve you been, Tim?” “Oh well. I got a new job, married my high school sweetheart, and had a kid. And, you,” he asked. “I dropped out of college and my brother died,” I said…silence. Many conversations would end this way. The topic of family would arise. I went from saying “I have 2 brothers” to “had 2 brothers” to “I have a brother.” My conclusion: change the subject and never have these conversations again.

AFSP

2014:
the year I decided to walk. 2 years prior, I was punched in the gut once again. My cousin Matthew committed suicide. Michael was best man at his wedding. He was a 3rd brother in the family. After 10 years of inaction, I needed to do something. I first heard about the Out of the Darkness Walks while attending college. It’s a walk to raise money for the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention (AFSP), an organization that supports research, educates the public, advocates for government legislation, and offers programs and resources for people at risk and survivors of suicide coping with the loss. After finding the local AFSP of Central NY, I called my friend Mike Intaglietta about the possibility of joining the CNY walk. Mike and I are both part of the same improv organization, the Syracuse Improv Collective (SIC), and we came to the conclusion: let’s make the next show a fundraiser.

Our first AFSP Charity Show

While I feared another set of uncomfortable conversations heading my direction, this was not the case with the Syracuse Improv Collective. There are many in the community whose lives have been affected by suicide or depression, who’ve lost brothers, sisters, friends, family, or considered suicide themselves. I’m constantly amazed at the support and even enthusiasm for helping such a cause. In the last 2 years, performers and audience members have donated generously to suicide prevention. At the fundraiser shows, we’ve had musicians, stand up comedians, artists, and improvisers entertain and even explore the topic, as well as volunteers from the AFSP speak in an effort to help.

I want to thank all those who’ve contributed in the past to further the advancement of mental health. With the 2008 signing of the Mental Health Parity & Addiction Act, health insurances offering mental health coverage have to offer benefits equal to medical and surgical conditions. In addition to psychiatric treatment & therapy, there are community meetings, lifelines, and much much more. If you are in crisis, do not hesitate to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). If you are looking for more information on the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention please visit www.afsp.org. To donate to the Syracuse Improv Collective team raising money for the AFSP, visit:
http://afsp.donordrive.com/team/syracuseimprovcollective

A warm thank you to Stephen Peters for sharing his story. We hope you’ll join us for our show tomorrow night, 10/22, 8PM at The Vault – 451 S. Warren St. All proceeds will benefit AFSP.

Thank you to all the performers, Collectivists, and AFSP volunteers who support the cause and this show. We want to shout out: our host, Anthony DeMario of 107.9; Zeke Leonard of the Tin Can Toucan Twin Cantina, for entertaining & educating us with his folk instrument inventions and songs of the working class; Andrea Springer, for bringing us laughter & catharsis; Meghan, for drawing improvisational art and auctioning it for charity, and improvisers for…well…improvising.