Category Archives: Blog

Retooling

The site’s mission is undergoing some retooling. The improv show posts have moved over to The Great Make Believe Society website. It’s been great fun with as a troupe putting o show in Middletown.

So, what’s next for The Diversion? Well, it’ll concentrate on my personal interests: my passion for improvisation and communication. So, expect some stories about my experiences with being present, in the moment and helping people get there.

Hanging with Harold

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I went to the weekly open improv rehearsal and Hanging with Harold at the Sea Tea Improv Studio in Hartford. This week was notable as Julia Pistell of Sea Tea contacted me and connected my with Andrea, a Wesleyan student looking for a ride to the workshop. Andrea is from Italy and has been performing long form for years. My friend, Wes Student and budding stand-up comic Willie Zabar also tagged along for the rehearsal.

For the open rehearsal we concentrated the art of gibberish. Gibberish is making simple non-word sounds. The fun part is improvising in gibberish is getting ones point across without words but through gesture and the emotion of the sound coming out.

Following the open rehearsal we took part in Sea Tea’s Hanging with Harold. The Harold is a long form improv format created by Del Close. We took one suggestion and used the suggestion to create scenes. It was great to work with the variety of different performers from Sea Tea and the Connecticut improv scene.

Back to Basics – Improv

I love improvised theater. It’s what fuels me. Check out this article from Tina Fey – tina fey article Read it, it will change you.

I’m currently in love with the idea of saying ‘yes’ to the world and all it holds. Yes opens all possibilities and helps build courage. It’s a scary word but it’s also the most postitive word out there. I thrive to say ‘yes’ more often.

Then there’s ‘and’. ‘Yes and’ builds off the agreement of yes and makes more things possible. It’s through acceptance and agreement that things grow.

I’m taking an advanced short form class at Sea Tea Improv’s Studio in Hartford. At first I felt silly going back to a class but Julia the instructor is great at helping all of the class feel at ease as we explore these concepts.

So, if you’re reading this, try saying ‘yes’ in your world. Let new things in. Life is always changing but I will be here to build off your ‘yes’ with an ‘and’. Accept and build, from the basics on up.

 

 

What’s in a name?

Topher jumping

My name is Christopher Thomas Polack. It’s a bit of a mouthful if you say the whole thing.

I introduce myself as ‘Christopher’. Most people immediate shorten it to ‘Chris’. There are too many Chrises in the world. I worked at one place where I was one of 9 Chrises. So I opted to be called ‘Topher’. This confuses some people. “What’s a Topher?” Is the question I get the most. It’s handy being called Topher especially when there’s other Chrises about.

If I had my choice, I prefer Christopher. Runner up: Topher.

Now on to my last name: Polack. My family is from Poland and probably got the Eliis Island treatment and most Polish last names use different letters, have lots of consonants, so at the Ellis Island check-in, people would give you a simple name like ‘Polack’. Actually, it was ‘Polak’. My dad added the ‘c’ to, in his worlds, “Would match what’s in the joke books”. So, yup, my last name is an ethnic slur. I remember being called “Hey Polack!” in school.

Names are pretty important. It’s how our parents define us when were born and we carry them all our lives. I’ve modified my mine. So, when you see me on the street, what will you call me?

Del Close

Del Close is a cornerstone, a legend in improvisational theater. Check out Del’s Wikipedia entry for his history.

This video explains Del Close and his creation: The Harold. The Harold is a long form improvisational theater format that features monologue, two person and group scenes that sort of create a three act play on the fly.

I love to improvise and the Harold is great form to play with. Sea Tea Improv offers a weekly Hanging with Harold workshop at their Hartford Studio on Wednesdays. Upright Citizen’s Brigade founder Matt Besser said “You’ll have to do about a hundred Harolds to start feeling comfortable with the form.” I hope to get there.

Here’s a great poster created by illustrator and improvisor Dyna Moe that illustrates The Harold.

The Harold Poster

Making the connections

I’m giddy this week. I got my first notice that someone reads the blog. My new friend and Qigong teacher Charles and I met up at an art show and sited the article that I mentioned Andrew Watt’s terrific blog. If you’re going to read anything today, read that.

I love how the Internet leaves its little trails of breadcrumbs around for others to pick up. Sharing what you know is perhaps the greatest thing to give. That’s I love teaching. It is so wonderful to have a group of people agree and follow along, collaborate and share.

Another Internet breadcrumb that reached into my real life was from the social media class at the Middlesex Chamber. I’m leading a few people to the world of LinkedIn and Facebook. It’s so much fun to take on these exciting topics with business people who are eager to learn.

So, my hope for you, dear reader, is that your trail of breadcrumbs you leave comes back to you and it helps you flourish.

We are blessed.

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Accepting loss

Where I live, there’s a local coffee shop called Klekolo World Coffee. It’s been around for nearly 20 years. The coffee shop serves some of the finest coffee in Connecticut.

As I frequent the shop more over the years, I noticed the family that has formed from the patrons and baristas and all.

Recently, we suffered the loss of one of the regulars. Joe was 76 when he passed and the effect of his death has hit us all. It’s amazing the ripples that one life can affect so many.

Through loss, I feel it expresses the strength of the community. It’s the resiliency of how all of us deal with the slings and arrows that hit us that determines the positive course of our lives.

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The Rough Day

I set a goal to write something on my blog every day. Well, today is the first day I’m coming in unprepared.

It’s a rough day to think that I have nothing to say. Not every entry will be epic but you still have to put in the the work. So I sit here typing this thing, not sure if I will publish it. This is me stumbling!

What makes the rough day easier is forgiveness of self. I will get better at writing and viewing the world through writing better. It takes practice and persistence. and all of that takes time and work. I won’t let, you, the reader, down. I’m devoting 30 minutes a day to writing. Doesn’t seem like much but when your day gets hectic its a challenge. I strive to be a better writer and can do it with your help.

So, I will be easier on myself and I have another topic now for tomorrow. What is it? Visit again to find out!

The Least I Could Do

This has been a concept that has been floating around in my head for a while. It’s something I call “The Least I Could Do”. I use it as a barometer with working with new people. Here’s how it works:

Someone asks you for a favor. Often, I’ll get asked to start a new project and, often, my enthusiasm gets the better of me and I agree to do too much. This takes the project out of scope, items get missed, etc.

So, The Least I Could Do is my new mantra. What’s the smallest part of work can I take on that will move the project forward without taking on too much, skewing the project or taking on too much.

The Least I Could Do is not a lazy concept. It’s a practical, step-based approach to starting and building good relationships when working with people.

Set the Alarm

One of the blogs that I follow is one written by Andrew Watt. Andrew is a he’s a teacher currently serving up the subjects of Latin, History and Design Thinking. He’s also very disciplined. For example, he’s taken on a practice of Tai Chi daily of a year. Another great topic Andrew has written about is the Palace of Memory.

So Andrew is a wicked smart friend of mine and if you look at the dedication he’s taken to the tai chi practice and read the daily entries like I have, you’ll find he’s discovered more in this practice than simple body movements. He’s discovered the basic tenets of work and discipline

If you take any activity and repeat it, deliberately, there’s something of value in the act.

Now take that thought and combine it with this Facebook quote from Patton Oswalt:

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It says: “Everyone: just pick one small thing you want to try to do, and quietly¬†do it as many times as you can in the new year. But don’t give tomorrow any importance. Calendars are constructs. It’s just you and the pursuit.

Whoah, who dumped bath salts into this Chex Mix?”

Let’s look at the value of doing something you’re passionate about and doing it over and over again. Forget the calendar. If you like to paint, then paint. I find if the activity is small and deliberate, like a set of specific tai ch moves, the progress can be accurately measured. You’ve either done it or not. As I discovered from Andrew’s tai chi experiment, he was able to explore a daily process and find near infinite interest and detail in the daily act. It’s the discipline and work that truly rules the day.

So set that alarm and write in that journal. Leave that reminder and pick up that drawing pad. Discover the joy in that activity. And while you are at it, forget the clock.