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Thinking and laughing outside the box

This week’s Midweek Mugging shares some laughs and wisdom with The Making-Box

Many people associate improv with comedy but the team at The Making-Box are proving it can be just as effective at building community and honest relationships as it is at making people laugh.

“The Making-Box continues to be an experiment that has gone horribly right,” said co-founder and artistic director, Jay Reid. “It is always evolving. There are new things we offer that we never thought we’d offer.”

The Making-Box began its evolution in November 2013 when members of the loosely organized comedy troupe began staging improv performances at the ANAF Club on Gordon Street.

Reid had developed an early love of improvisational stand-up and skit comedy while in high school and was a member of the Centennial CVI improv team when it competed at the Canadian Improv Games.

He went on to work as a regional director and national trainer for CIG across Canada and in Chicago. He also spent time touring the country and performing with the band Life Story Monologue.

Reid began to recognize that the same skills for collaboration and improvisation he applied to music and comedy were transferable to other jobs and social situations.

“What started as an individual standup show with the intent to build a comedy community in Guelph is now a storefront comedy theatre and improv training centre,” said Reid.

Their Improv Incubator classes and workshops help people from grade school to seniors’ centres embrace their inner “weirdo”, build honest relationships and overcome common fears such as public speaking.

“Our Improv for Business program helps organizations harness the tools of improv theatre and apply them to the workplace,” said Reid. “What we offer people is a framework where they can listen and connect and respond in a way that encourages trust, flexibility and productive collaboration.”

That often includes building relationships with people outside their professional or social circle.

“For many students of the Making-Box, the Venn diagrams of their lives only intersect at improv,” said Rob Lewin. “They would never have met each other if it hadn’t been for improv but they are now the best of friends.”

Lewin moved from Toronto to Guelph in 2013 to study toxicology at the University of Guelph and has been with the company since its inception.

He, and other members of the Making-Box improv team, such as Second City alumnist Hayley Kellet can attest for the transformational influence of their work.

“The reason Rob, Jay and I are all doing this is that we went through that transformation ourselves in our classes,” said Kellet. “We experienced that transition into being a more open, happy and connected person through the process of improv.”

The improv team continues to host special events and live comedy shows including regular performances at the Making Box Comedy Theatre on Cork Street. The goal of the shows is to make people laugh but the main focus of the classes is to build community.

“It is quite important to address off the top of every improv class that if someone comes in with the intent of being funny that is usually disaster to co-creation,” said Reid. “We dispel the myth that improv operates on the idea of being funny. The joy and fun comes from getting somewhere together that you never thought you’d be.”