"This is what we are supposed to do when we are at our best - make it all up - but make it up so truly that later it will happen that way."
Ernest Hemmingway, in a letter to F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Jamie "Willie" Wyllie (May 22, 1958 - October 2, 2014) created with Howard Jerome the Canadian Improv Games (CIG) a national high school improv tournament inspired by the Improv Olympics, created by David Shepherd and Howard Jerome. The program recently celebrated its 41st anniversary. In addition to CIG, Willie was also a dedicated lawyer, producer, director, teacher and one of my dearest friends.
|Jamie "Willie" Wyllie|
I recently found Willie's reminiscence. Unfortunately, it did not include Hemmingway's quote. I reached out to Chris, who not only sent me the quote, but the entirety of Willie's post;
|Chris Ramelan at the Canadian Improv Games National Tournament|
That quote reminds me of the first weekend I spent in Manhattan visiting one of my mentors (David Shepherd, the co-founder of the modern era's first professional improv group "The Compass"). After driving for about 9 straight hours and getting lost in a part of the Bronx where police feared to go, I eventually found David's work space (which we called the "Loft").
When I first entered the Loft at about 8:00 pm, it was teaming with people talking loudly. I was numb from the drive and the cold weather outside. So, I just quietly watched what was going on. Periodically David would intervene, quiet down the action in the Loft and ask a question or make a comment. Then, the action would resume.
David Shepherd and Willie Wyllie at the Loft.
A person would have otherwise come to the party alone and knowing no one other than David, instead arrived to find the Loft full of people he knew to some extent (by reason of their shared rehearsal a couple of nights earlier). Each guy at the actual party had had a couple of days since the rehearsal to think about things he wished he had said two nights before at the rehearsal party. Each lady at the actual party had the necessary foreknowledge to be patient with some of the dorky guys because they were actually really nice guys once you got past their dorky exterior.
David Shepherd rehearsing a party
Hemmingway himself would have loved the end result of David's way of throwing a party. The party avoided the pitfalls that were discovered at the rehearsal, and embraced and further examined the bright spots identified during the rehearsal. Needless to say, over that weekend and many, many weekends thereafter, I always had a great time spending time with my teacher, mentor and friend David Shepherd.
P.S. I treated that first trip to NYC as a rehearsal for things to come. One of the things I learned from that rehearsal was that I should never drive alone to Manhattan. Thereafter, each weekend I would drive the 9 hour trip to Manhattan with a different, interesting and beautiful woman to keep me company during the long drives between Ottawa and NYC.
P.P.S. Upon arriving in NYC I would go immediately to the family home of Michael Golding. Michael was then becoming David's creative protégé (a role that he has kept to this very day). As pre-arranged with my driving companion, I would drop her off (late on a Thursday or Friday evening) with Michael. At that time I would make arrangements to pick her up after lunch the following Sunday (for the return trip to Ottawa). While I worked with David that weekend, Michael would act as her personal tour guide around Manhattan. On the drive home, my fellow traveler would: (1) tell me what she had seen or done over the weekend, (2) interrogate me about Michael (leading up to the big question) "does he have a girlfriend?", and (3) go on and on about the deep connection she had made with Michael, ask if I believed in love at first sight, and offer to drive to Manhattan with me anytime I might be headed there (although Michael and I stuck to our agreed arrangement that there would be no repeat visitors). These arrangements always seemed to work at out well for all concerned.
P.P.S. Given the great detail that David spent on throwing a party, I can understand why his protégé Michael became so detail oriented when planning out workshops he conducted. Michael's improv DNA comes directly from David.
Willie Wyllie - March, 2014
1981 International Improv Olympic H.S. Match with Michael Golding & Willie Wyllie
What a beautiful way to remember Willie. Thank you, Chris.
Michael Golding, Willie Wyllie, Howard Jerome, & David Shepherd
Michael Golding is a writer, director and improv teacher. He can be contacted for workshops, festivals and private consultations at email@example.com. Michael participated in the evolution of the Improv Olympics & Canadian Improv Games. Artistic director of the Comic Strip Improv Group in N.Y. & created the Insight Theatre Company for Planned Parenthood, Ottawa. He is a faculty member at El Camino College in Los Angeles, working with at-risk teens and traditional students. He wrote and co-produced the documentary "David Shepherd: A Lifetime of Improvisational Theatre" (available for free on YouTube). His book, Listen Harder, a collection of essays, curriculum and memorabilia on improvisation and educational theatre, is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and CreateSpace. Michael holds a BFA degree in Drama from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts & an MA degree in Educational Theatre from NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education & Human Development.