There’s an improv class I take from time to time (that’s comedy improv, not musical improv, by the way) that’s good for lots of things.

Sometimes it’s good for when I am wracked with guilt and beating myself up for having messed up something really important, and need something entirely unimportant to beat myself up over instead – Beethoven called it Die Wut über den verlorenen Groschen, ausgetobt in einer Caprice and you should give it a listen sometime.

Sometimes it’s good as affirmation when I know I can do no wrong because in improv there are no mistakes other than believing there are such things as mistakes.

Sometimes it’s good as a way of affirming that there’s one evening in the deadline-driven world I occupy when I can, if I wish, make a stand and say “sorry I can’t save the world tonight, or go visit your aunt, or come to your concert, or write my editor’s opener that the printer is waiting for. Because. I. Have. A. Class. To. Go. To. (It didn’t work tonight, but what the heck.)

Sometimes it’s only good for some laughs during, and a couple of beers after.

But once in a while – perhaps in a very long while – it is good for life-changing revelations, such as the following.

It happens while you are shuffling your feet waiting to make an entrance (because it’s your turn), neither able to empty your mind and trust the moment, not even able to latch onto some carefully prepared nugget, so you can fake spontaneity even though you know you will feel like a fraud on the other side, because at least there would be another side.

It was, in short, the dark 6.45pm Monday evening of the soul. The moment you realize you have nothing. Nothing funny to say. No heart to wander out and mime making a cup of coffee in some imaginary room waiting for one of your fellow improvisers to rescue you. No funny walk that won’t make the pain in your back unbearably worse. Not even ice-cold terror. Trust me, it’s worse than forgetting your lines, because there’s isn’t even anything you know you’ve forgotten.. There’s just nothing. Nada. Nichts. Lutho. Semmi.

So what do you do in that situation?

[This is what’s called the big reveal, folks!]

What you do is you walk out and you say in no particular tone of voice, to no-one in particular “I got nothing.”

And just stand there.

Trust me.

Shout-Out No. 1:
Bowerbird Collective sent in a listing, very late, for a benefit concert, at Heliconian Hall on Sunday February 1 at 3pm. The title is self-explanatory: A Concert Raising Funds for the Bushfires in Australia, and the artists’ website,, suggests an intrinsic relationship between their musical interests and the cause the concert will benefit. So check it out.

Shout-Out No. 2:
Summer personal enrichment starts in February, if you have the wit to plan ahead!
Accuracy in advertising requires me to say this particular announcement is a case of me advising you to do as I say, not as I do, because all I ever do in the summer is kick myself for not having thought about registering for stuff earlier when I had the chance. So do yourself a favour and check out pages 40 and 41 for a taste of what could be in store. All the programs here have early deadlines. There will be more in March. Make this the year you did.

Shout-Out No. 3:
Family Day in Ontario in 2020 is Monday February 17.
What better way to celebrate the four-day weekend (starting at 7pm on Valentine’s Day, Friday February 14) than with opera’s single most dysfunctional family! Opera By Request’s complete Ring Cycle starts on the Friday at College Street United Church, at Bathurst St. with Rheingold (a 7pm start). And it ends Monday, as it should, with Götterdämmerung. Start time on Monday is 2pm, so you should be exiting at twilight right on cue. It’s an astonishing undertaking for Bill Shookhoff’s intrepid outfit and guaranteed to be a version of the Cycle you will likely never see again. A story to tell your grandchildren, if you ever want to have any after this! Accompaniment is “piano and selected orchestral instruments” and that in itself should be something to behold.

Two cautionary notes: first, if you go to Rheingold on the Friday, Valentine’s Day, do not, I repeat not try to impress anyone by stealing the ring. Bad things will happen, trust me; and second, if you are still around at the end of Monday’s show, you might want to know that the nearest firehall is at College and Bellevue, just two blocks east.

Lots to read ahead! And lots, musically, as always, to see and hear.

And that’s something.

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