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Improv Jelly heading to Lacombe Performing Arts Centre

There is nothing like a lively dash of improv to brush a day’s stress away.
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There is nothing like a lively dash of improv to brush a day’s stress away.

That’s part of why the folks with Red Deer-based Improv Jelly do what they do — and they have a blast doing it for local audiences.

The troupe is headed to Lacombe for a show on Sept. 29 at the Lacombe Performing Arts Centre.

Things get underway at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 each, and are available at the Mary C. Moore Public Library or online at

Nicole Sutherland and her husband Paul — both accomplished actors in their own right — launched Improv Jelly back in 2015. Rounding out the team that will be joining them in Lacombe are Matthew Taylor, Ash Mercia, Phil Abusow and Sue Merry as host.

Improv is a thoroughly unique venture, and quite unlike conventional acting where lines are carefully memorized and the actors conform to a director’s vision, explained Nicole.

“We did a pilot project to see what the interest would be in Red Deer back in 2015, but we didn’t really start a season until 2016,” she said.

It proved a hit with the community pretty much from the get-go.

“We were really shocked at how many people wanted to do this. So we thought, well, we have enough people — let’s give it a shot. We had between 12 and 15 people taking part in it for a long time.”

For Nicole, delving into improv has brought a fun new dimension to her overall experience as an actor.

“I didn’t know I liked it until I graduated from theatre school because it’s something that I was always intimidated by,” she said.

“It seems very intimidating, because being a trained actor, I’m so used to getting a script, knowing exactly what it is I have to say, and what to do. That was my comfort zone.

“When I got into improv, I realized wow — this is a completely different art form for the stage. But once I just let go, and realized I didn’t have to be perfect at it, it was fine.

“The whole thing about improv is, we want you to fail because that’s where the comedy comes in,” she said with a laugh. “It really helps you to not be a perfectionist!”

Paul also was trained as an actor first, then tried improv and immediately enjoyed it, said Nicole.

They both also were part of the Red Deer-based Bullskit Comedy for a time as well.

“You have to be able to just let go and make mistakes and not be so judgemental about yourself. That is the biggest hurdle — not judging yourself. We kind of follow an acronym — FAST.

“It stands for having fun, learning acceptance, learning support, and also learning how to trust not only the other people onstage, but also to trust yourself. It’s like a muscle, the more you work at it, the stronger it gets.”

Shows are developed essentially right then and there.

“We just show up, and we have a series of themes that we do. We also get our suggestions from the audience, and find inspiration there.”

They will also invite folks to join them onstage to take part.

Ultimately, it’s a blast and Nicole said the troupe is excited about heading to Lacombe. Also, Paul will be teaching an improv class this fall through LPAC for those who would like to check it out.

Intro to Improv for Adults will run Monday evenings through November from 7 to 9 p.m.

“We also have $5 public drop-ins in Red Deer at Central Alberta Theatre every second Thursday from 8-10 p.m. for anyone that wants to attend either to watch or give improv a try,” she added.

“I love how authentic it is. We will come off the stage and say, we just told stories out of nothing! It was entertaining, and people enjoyed it. We do warm-ups before we start, to help turn off real life for a little while.

“You get to take a break from whatever stress is going on throughout the day. And you focus on just making each other look good onstage.”

Not only is it great fun for audiences, it’s a joy for the actors, too.

“You get exhausted in a different way — you are exhausted from laughing but you feel lighter.”

Again, for tickets to the show, or for more about registering for Improve for Adults, head to the Mary C. Moore Public Library or go to

Mark Weber

About the Author: Mark Weber

I've been a part of the Black Press Media family for about a dozen years now, with stints at the Red Deer Express, the Stettler Independent, and now the Lacombe Express.
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