JAMES STRECKER: If you were asked for 50 words for an encyclopedia to summarize what you do, what would you say?

CHRISTY BRUCE Christy Bruce is an improviser who specializes in Spontaneous Theatre. She has spent a lot of time improvising with a different audience member each night and making them look like they’ve been improvising their whole lives.

JS: What important beliefs do you express in your work?

CB: That improvisation is about having each other’s backs! Support your partner, make them look AMAZING and you, in turn, will look amazing. When it comes to working with “civilians”, it’s the same principal with the added bonus of showcasing a person that you’d most likely not ever meet in your real life. Every person is interesting, every person is connected. For me, this is a really important message in a world that has growing fears of people that might be different then themselves.

JS: Name two people, living or dead, whom you admire a great deal and tell us why for each one.

CB: This is a hard one! To narrow it down to two is difficult so I’ll stick with people in the improv world. One is Rebecca Northan (obviously). We’ve been best friends for over 20 years. We trained together at the Loose Moose Theatre in Calgary and we fought side by side for better treatment of female improvisers (these were the days when a fellow improviser would think it was ‘funny’ to stick their tongues down your throat in a scene….but that’s a whole other story). She came up with the concept of Blind Date, Legend Has It, and our new Spontaneous Theatre show, Undercover. She’s strong, creative, and goes out and gets what she wants! The second is Colin Mochrie. Everyone knows how funny he is, but he is also one of the most generous improvisers out there. I’ve worked with well know improvisers and actors quite a bit and Colin is always the best! He is a great example of someone who supports his fellow improvisers. He’s a busy guy, but if he’s in town, he’s always game to play!

JS: How have you changed since you began to do creative work?

CB: That’s hard to say because I started improvising at 16. For me, when I go through periods of no work I can get quite depressed. When the creative energy doesn’t get released, it turns into something very heavy. I know a lot of people that suffer the same issue. So it’s important for me to keep active, release that creative energy. It makes me a lot happier!

JS: What are your biggest challenges as a creative person?

CB: I thinks it’s continually finding projects that satisfy my creativity. It’s a hard business. I’ve been so lucky to find amazing people to work with and collaborate with though.

JS: Please describe at least one major turning point in your life.

CB: That would be joining the Loose Moose Theatre at 16. I was (and am) a pretty shy person. The Moose was a place where I felt accepted and part of a group. We use to call it the “Land of Misfit Toys” because we all felt slightly awkward in the real world. Keith Johnstone taught me not only the basics of improv and gave us all a place to hone our skills on stage in front of an audience (failing in front of 150 each night sure helps you learn fast), but he also taught us to Fail Forward. It’s something I still wholly believe in. It’s one of those lessons everybody needs to embrace. Failing is the best way to learn. Fail, fall down, get back up, learn, move forward.

JS: What are the hardest things for an outsider to understand about what you do?

CB: That it’s a lot of work!

JS: How and why did you begin to do creative work in the first place?

CB: It was really the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do. I’ve spent a lot of hours trying to find something else that I could be as passionate about because sometimes this industry hits you a little too hard. But I have yet to find something that gives me so much back. I’m a true believer in following your passion.

JS: What haven’t you attempted as yet that you would like to do and please tell us why?

CB: To tell you the truth, I can’t think of anything! I enjoy just following the path life lays out in front of me! Although, I spent some time in Berlin this summer. I would love to work and live there for a year or two!

JS: What are your most meaningful achievements?

CB: One of the honours of doing Blind Date is meeting so many amazing people. Sometimes the show really has a huge impact on them. I’ve had ‘dates’ go through the show and get a renewed energy to do things they’ve put off, or didn’t think they could do. One guy booked a trip and climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. One went back to the country he was born in and spent a few months exploring. One started acting!! And one spoke publicly about his PTSD caused by his active duty in Afghanistan for the first time. For me, it are these kinds of achievements that mean so much. Having a positive effect on another human being!

JS: What advice would you give a young person who would like to do what you do?

CB: It’s going to be hard. You’re going to want to quite. You will fail. You will succeed. Then you will fail again. Never stop learning. If the passion is there, keep going.

JS: Of what value are critics?

CB: Oh man…..I think art is subjective. But if you have someone who can look at the work from an intellectual eye and really ‘critic’ the work on what it is trying to do then great! Some theatre’s tickets are expensive, so people don’t want to go in blind. But we’ve all seen two completely different reviews for the same show. One person may hate it while another loves it. That’s art…and food….and experiences…and clothes….etc. As an actor, you have to be very careful with critics. If they love you, take it with a grain of salt. If they hate you, do the same. I’ve had both. The hate hurts, and sometimes the words seem more personal then a criticism of skill. That being said, I’m the one that put myself on the stage!

JS: What do you ask of your audience?

CB: Have a drink before the show. Turn your phones off.

JS: What specifically would you change about what goes on in the world?

CB: The fear and hate….which comes from fear. I’m so tired of hearing people generalizing a whole group of people because of their religion or hometown or sexual preference. It’s all bulls*t.

JS: If you could relive one experience from your creative life, what would it be and why would you do so?

CB: I spent a few months on Broadway as Kim Cattrall’s understudy. I was excited but stressed. I’d love to go back and really take it all in a bit more calmly.

JS: Tell us what it feels like to be a figure in the media. What effect does this presence have on you?

CB: I honestly don’t feel like a figure in the media. I feel like a person who is lucky enough to do some shows!

JS: Name two places you would like to visit, one you haven’t been to and one to experience again and briefly tell us why

CB: Well, I already mentioned Berlin! I absolutely loved it there! The energy of the city was amazing and the culture is fantastic. I’d love to go to Amsterdam. I’m a huge Van Gogh fan, so to see more of his art would be so fantastic. There’s also a great improv scene there.

JS: Please tell us about one or more projects that you have been working on, are preparing, or have recently completed. Why do they matter to you and why should they matter to us

CB: We are working on a new Spontaneous Theatre show called Undercover. We get an audience member and make them the new detective there to solve a murder. We’ve only had a week of workshops so far and start to really get down to it in January. I’m always excited to do challenging things, and figuring out how to make the show work and showcase the audience member is a fantastic challenge. Why should it matter to you? Well, it will be fun, and funny, and you’ll get to meet a person and learn a little bit about them to take away with you. If that sounds like something you’d like, come see it! If not, come see it anyway, you never know!

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