What If You Feared Nothing?

Maria Konopken is a graduate of The Torch Theatre‘s training center in Phoenix where she also performs. Maria is in Chicago for the summer, taking classes at iO Chicago, performing, getting into all kinds of adventures, and generally living up the improv life. She loves Space Jam, too. Maria‘s been kind enough to document her journey and share it with us. Thanks, Maria! The Torch Theatre‘s 4721 Blog is proud to present The Big Yes And: Maria in Chicago!

What If You Feared Nothing?
by Maria Konopken

As kids, we do not fear anything. We do not have any hang ups, the post man hasn’t dropped off the baggage yet, and our issues are hopefully few and far between. As adults, we fear random things like mustard and come with baggage that is marked with a heavy sticker. As adults, we are told to keep your crazy to yourself, blend in, and be normal like everyone else.

It is the opposite of what we’re told to do as improvisors. We are told to get out of our heads, be real, and be in the moment. Do we actually do it? Uh, no. I have been in many of my shows where I was not in the moment.

In our Level 5 class with Bob Fisher, he asked us how many minutes we’re actually involved in our show? As a class, we wanted to be answer, the whole thing, but realistically, it’s maybe 10 to 12 minutes of a 25 minute piece. He then asked, What would happen if you were involved with the whole show from listening to sound effects to acting?

What would your show become?

The comedy is in the truth according to iO’s theory, and if we are not in the moment, you won’t discover it. Our lives are hysterical; we just don’t tap into it because it can seem too bland. But iO, through my classes and the shows I’ve seen, has emphasized that it isn’t. The fear of showing yourself is what is boring. Being told this has taken my improv to another level. Seeing it applied well has taken it further, especially with Blessing and Improvised Shakespeare — both which I have seen multiple times.

For those at home who may not know what Blessing is, it is a two-person improv show with Blaine Swen and Susan Messing. Their setup is simple, but I believed every character they portrayed even down to the way Messing ate a fun-sized Snicker bar. I am slightly biased as I have been a fan of Messing before I came to Chicago and she is one of my teachers, but whatever her secret is, after seeing Blessing, I want to steal it.


Blessing (Susan Messing & Blaine Swen) at iO Chicago by Maria Konopken

Blessing (Susan Messing & Blaine Swen) at iO Chicago by Maria Konopken

Improvised Shakespeare … there are no words for how amazing this is. It is about a 45 minute show done in the style of Shakespeare. And while the high schooler in me would like run far, far away from it, it is done so well with imagination and character choices that you become a part of the world and find some similarities. At many points, I was crying from laughing so hard.

The Improvised Shakespeare Company at iO Chicago by Maria Konopken

The Improvised Shakespeare Company at iO Chicago by Maria Konopken

While very different shows, they are similar in that some of the best moments were not the one-line joke, but the human experience. It is raw and scary, but you love watching great improv because you can relate. Yes, my boyfriend and I have had this fight. Did I throw a shoe at him? No, but I thought about it. You hate the character Karen because she was a witch to Suzy. Why such strong emotions for people you just met? Because everyone has a Karen in their life, however you are told not to express that in the real world. But, on stage, please bring the baggage and salt.

It is such a great feeling to see something you love so much done so well. It is something to strive for and discover your truth.

What if you feared nothing?

The stage of the Del Close Theater at iO Chicago by Maria Konopken

The stage of the Del Close Theater at iO Chicago by Maria Konopken


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Posted in Improv, In the community, performers, The Big Yes And: Maria in Chicago

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