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Mission: Improv 

“There are no wrong answers in improv,” says Adrianne Gagnon of Mission Critical Comedy.

click to enlarge More than a fun hobby.
  • More than a fun hobby.

Weekly Wednesdays Comedy & Improv Jam
The Company House, 2202 Gottingen Street
5:30pm workshop, 8pm show

It's Wednesday night at The Company House. The taps are open, along with water pitchers. A dozen people are standing in a circle. They're swaying forward and backward, rocking on their heels. A man makes eye contact with a woman across from him and he nods. She does so as well. He winds up his arm and lobs a ball in the air, forming an arc.

The woman catches it and locks eyes with someone else, tossing the ball. Before long, several balls are floating through the air. When someone releases one, they have to catch another. It takes a lot of concentration, especially since the balls are invisible.

To an outsider, it might seem like a bizarre ritual. But it's simply an improv workshop exercise. It's a new class that its organizer hopes will form the backbone of a comedy startup.

Adrianne Gagnon has a seemingly bottomless reservoir of energy. She leads every exercise and game in the workshop, encouraging participants to throw themselves into the material. She's clearly excited and her energy is infectious. She started the improv class out of a love for the form. "I love the camaraderie in improv," she says. "Everyone's so positive and looking to have a fun time."

The workshop lasts for two hours, covering everything from concentration to character-building. Afterward, there's a show anyone in the audience can participate in. Gagnon wants the workshop to be as welcoming as possible. "It's a safe space," she says. "There are no wrong answers in improv."

Gagnon studied improv at Second City Toronto and founded the Big City Improv Festival, the largest improv showcase in Canada. She came to Halifax for last year's Fringe festival to put on a show and noticed there wasn't much improv going on (aside from mainstays like Make 'Em Ups), which gave her an idea.

East coasters "are natural-born storytellers," Gagnon says. "It's a natural fit to have comedy and improv out here." Gagnon met the owners of The Company House and arranged to host the workshop there. She hopes it's the beginning of something big. She's started Mission Critical Comedy, a company dedicated to improv classes, camps and events. The workshop will be the springboard. "That's the dream," she says, "We just got to keep it going and make that happen."

Gagnon hopes to grow her brand across Nova Scotia. She sees improv as more than a fun hobby—it's a community-building tool. "Improv might not save the planet," says Gagnon, "but it will save a person or two from time to time."

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