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Adventures In Volunteering Episode 1

Published: Aug 31, 2023 @ 8:49 AM

By Jeff D’Silva

In the heart of Inglewood, Calgary, nestled among the vibrant streets, there existed a hidden gem known as the Loose Moose Theatre Company in the old Garry Theatre space. It was a haven for creative souls, weirdos, outcasts, the class clowns and the drama nerds. A place where laughter echoed and the imagination ran wild. For Jeff, the decision to become a volunteer there would forever alter the course of his life.

With a heart brimming with curiosity and a sprinkle of nervous excitement, Jeff stepped through the theatre's doors for the first time. The air was thick with an aura of artistic energy and hot buttered popcorn, and the walls seemed to whisper tales of countless performances from comedy heroes who had since moved on to the big lights of Toronto, Ontario, but whose humble roots started at this very theatre. Jeff was welcomed by the warm smiles of fellow volunteers and staff, each radiating a passion for the magic that unfolded on their stage. Some of the smiling faces from that first day would go on to become lifelong friends.

Jeff’s journey began with the simplest of tasks— mixing Lime Rickey (a mysterious green juice concoction derived from three healthy ingredients sugar, water and green), and “snogging” which he would soon learn is “Mooser speak” for set decoration during a show. Every moment was a chance to learn, to soak in the knowledge of the more tenured improvisers who surrounded him. Jeff found himself spellbound by the camaraderie and the unyielding commitment to storytelling. He marveled at the senior improvisers who effortlessly slipped into characters, transforming seemingly the most innocuous incident or suggestion into a completely enthralling scene in a matter of seconds.

As weeks turned into months, Jeff's dedication grew stronger. He graduated from the role of an eager observer to that of a vital cog in the theatre's intricate machinery. He helped build sets, paint backdrops, and even tried his hand at making masks. The process was exhilarating—a symphony of creativity and collaboration that produced breathtaking results.

One fateful day, while chatting with a senior improviser, Jeff's curiosity was piqued by tales of improvisational performances. The improviser spoke of not preparing, being obvious, and diving into the unknown with only wit and instinct as your guides. Jeff’s heart raced and his mind lit up like the top of the Calgary Tower on a Flames’ game night. He decided to venture beyond his comfort zone and embrace the exhilarating challenge of improv.

Under the guidance of the theatre's mentors, Jeff stepped onto the stage for his first improv performance. The spotlight illuminated his face, casting aside any remnants of doubt. He locked eyes with his fellow performers, a silent agreement passing between them—they were in this together. The game was simple, one improviser makes a suggestion and the others exclaim “Yes Let’s!” and act out the suggestion. The goal is learn to accept offers from your team, be open to failing, and have the most fun possible. The audience's laughter became an irresistible well of energy, and Jeff’s inhibitions, the shyness of being the awkward, skinny brown kid at his high school melted away like winter’s snowfall after the first chinook of the season.

With every scene, he discovered a new facet of himself. The stage became a canvas for his imagination, where he could be a detective solving absurd crimes one moment and a time-traveling adventurer the next. Each performance was a tapestry woven with laughter, vulnerability, and the symbiotic connection between improvisers and the audience.

As seasons changed and years flowed by, Jeff’s journey continued to flourish. He found himself not only a volunteer but an integral part of the Loose Moose family. As a first generation Canadian, Jeff had never really had a professional network, so his Moose family would serve as his lifelong collaborators, co-conspirators and sources of constant inspiration. His dedication was rewarded with friendships that felt like kindred spirits, mentors who nurtured his talents, and memories, tall tales from backstage, failures, victories, and lessons learned that he would carry with him for the rest of his life.

Looking back, Jeff realized that his decision to volunteer at the Loose Moose Theatre Company was a pivotal one. It had ignited a passion he hadn't known existed and led him down a path of artistic exploration and personal growth. Through the ups and downs, the laughter and the challenges, he had discovered a place where his human spirit could truly be set free, unburdened by his insecurities and the trivial annoyances of everyday life.

And so, the curtains fell on the story of a volunteer named Jeff, whose journey with the Loose Moose Theatre Company was a testament to the transformative power of embracing the unknown, learning to embrace failure as a tool for development, nurturing one's passions, and finding a second home in the most unexpected of places. Also, he learned how to make Lime Rickey, a healthy beverage that he uses to nourish his children to this day.