Washington Improv Theater’s Valentine’s date tips

February 10, 2012

Say you have a date for Valentine’s Day. Hooray! The hard part is over, right? Wrong. As anyone who has ever braved the world of dating can attest, dates are to awkward moments as political debates are to gaffes. Given the fact that a date can kind of feel like going on a job interview with someone who wants to see you naked at some point, the potential for disaster is . . . high.

To prepare you for this night — and hopefully future, non-Hallmark-hyped dates to come — we consulted four members of Washington Improv Theater, folks whose job entails making even the most uncomfortable situations as hilarious as possible. They’re gearing up for “Love Bites,” their sold-out one-night-only show devoted to humorous matters of the heart. Read on for insight from Sara Armour, Jenny Huftalen, Bill DiPiero and Mikael Johnson on how to charm your Valentine’s date with the wittiest of conversations.

Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose: DiPiero stressed the importance of eye contact. “It’s a good way to communicate with someone, to check in with someone emotionally and see how they’re responding to you. [Don’t be like] people who check their phones all the time.” Armour agreed. “Eye contact shows confidence and it’s sexy.”


Sara Armour. (Andrew Bossi)

Mirror, mirror: “Mirroring people’s body language, provided it’s appropriate” is very effective, said Armour. “You can give the illusion of great chemistry! Fake it till you make it.”

Building blocks: “All conversational ability is about listening well and adding appropriately to what they’ve provided,” said Huftalen, citing the classic Improv rule of building on your partner’s work by moving forward with “Yes, and . . .” “You want to be listening and responding. You want to contribute.”

Tell all the truth [don’t] tell it slant: “Just point out something that’s true,” said Armour. “Make an observation,” added DiPiero. “Make a statement about the person. You can talk about someone that you both can hate!” “And if they laugh, do it a few times, then wait and come back to it,” suggested Armour.

God is in the details: “Be specific,” said Johnson. “Not ‘I like to travel’ but ‘I want to see Bombay.’ ”

A-C-T-I-O-N: “In a moment of awkwardness, make a choice,” said Armour. “Do something. You don’t have to sit in it. Call back to the conversation or get the waiter to do something cute. Be physical but appropriate. Take initiative.” DiPiero agreed. “Be decisive. Ambivalence and indifference are terrible on a date and in improv.”

Unreal: “One big scene killer [in improv] is denying any sort of reality that was created. Like if someone says that you’re a doctor and you say, ‘What are you talking about? I’m not a doctor!’ In conversation, if your date presents how they feel and you reply with, ‘You’re wrong,’ that shuts the whole thing down.”

First date, blank slate: “When you’re trying to do improv, you don’t come out with some planned, preconceived notion of what the scene is going to be about,” said Armour. “You have to be in the moment, engage and respond. When people try to push their own agenda on a date, ‘I only want to talk about what I want to talk about,’ that’s a problem.”

I’m a loser, baby: “Often scenes won’t go well because each person is trying to dominate the scene,” said DiPiero. “By losing the scene, that can make it better. So be the fool. It shows confidence [if you’re] willing to be the butt of the joke, to be the intelligent fool.”

“Love Bites”

Feb. 14 at 8 p.m., Source, 1835 14th Street NW, www.washingtonimprovtheater.com, 202-204-7770

show and tell

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