Ask a Trainer! “Spice Up Your Life” with Haley Guest

By Averie MacDonald

Hayley Guest

Haley Guest, Regional Director of the Nova Scotia Improv Games, real talkin’ about Life Events.

In this month’s edition of Ask a Trainer, we talked with Haley Guest about how to spice up your Life Event. 

Name: Haley Guest

CIG gig: Regional Director of the Nova Scotia tournament

Other gigs: Environmental sustainability superhero, Student of environmental science (she’s almost done!) at Dalhousie University, Co-founder of Halifax improv troupe Uncles.

The Chops: Does she look familiar? Maybe you know her as a trainer at Improv Camp. Or as a referee at Nationals. Or just as that smiling face from appearances with troupes like Flint Improv Co.


THE QUESTION: @lisahac asked:

“Life Event: Is it ok to have a scene that doesn’t conclude happily? Do we need closure to fulfill the story arc?”

Haley’s answer:

a) Yes, totally. Conclusions, by definition, don’t include “happy endings.” They’re called “happy endings” and not just “endings” because it differentiates them! So it’s totally okay to have a scene that doesn’t conclude happily. If that’s where, organically, the scene led, then it’s the right ending.

b) I think moments that are presented honestly and sincerely and that advance organically will satisfy an audience without having sort of a “beginning, middle, end” feeling. There’s nowhere really on the (judging) rubric that asks for a story arc.It’s called “advancing” on the rubric because it’s just asking players to search for the next step in improvisation organically. So I don’t think you need closure to fulfill a story arc, I think a moment is a moment.


Q: We often hear about “sincerity” in connection with the Life Event. What does that mean to you and why is it important?

A: “Just drawing from the Wiki on it, ‘Sincerity is the virtue of one who speaks and acts truly about his or her own feelings, thoughts, and desires.’ [This definition] sort of inherently asks for ‘I feel’ statements.  What does your character believe in? What do they feel strongly about? What would they fight for?  That’s the sort of thing that I think students should think about when they’re thinking about what sincerity means from an improvisational perspective.”

Q. How can improvisers explore scenarios honestly and sincerely, even if they’ve never experienced them before? (i.e. getting fired from a job, or a death in the family).

A: “One thing I guess is … always sort of thinking ‘if this is true, then what else is true?’ and using that to draw out information about the characters’ lives and about the reality you’re creating. If it’s true that someone’s really, really affected by not making the swim team, then what else is true about them? Are they a high-achiever? Are they on lots of other clubs and committees?

Teams might want to make choices that are melodramatic perhaps to inject stakes into a scene instead of looking for the stakes organically. I would challenge players to go for the more difficult decision, which makes you more vulnerable.

Choosing melodrama is kind of like stereotyping a moment, in the same way that if you choose a stereotypical character it’s easy because we’ve all seen it a bunch of times. Being more specific and making specific choices I think helps avoid melodrama, because melodrama’s all about generalizations.”


Practice two-person scenes where the players can only use lines that begin with “that makes me feel” or “I feel”. This exercise will help teams to make sincere and honest offers and avoid “waffling,” which can shut down a scene.

(Haley credits Jayden Pfeifer with teaching her this exercise at Improv Camp way back when!)

Example: Player X and Player Y are given a relationship to build their scene around: (i.e. brother-sister). The two performers play out the scene physically (i.e. they might be “making dinner” together, which involves tasking like chopping vegetables and setting the table). To advance the scene, Player X and Player Y have a conversation including only lines of dialogue that begin with the words “I feel” or “That makes me feel”.

Let the scenes run for as long as they need to, without imposing any time limits. When the scene finishes, two new team-members will start a new scene, about a new relationship.


Haley says the best way to improve your life event is to become more connected with your teammates.

“CIG brings people together and really feels like it’s a family, and I think without the Life Event there wouldn’t be as much of that. In the Life Event, you can’t even have someone be the star character without them knowing that the seven other people (on their team) aren’t going to be judging them for being so vulnerable.”

In other words, take time to get to know your teammates! Sounds like a good excuse for a TEAM PIZZA PARTY!!!!

Many thanks to @lisahac for sending in this month’s question! Now it’s YOUR turn! Send us all your CIG-related questions so we can get answers from all your friendly neighbourhood trainers. Tweet us at @CanadianImpov with the hashtag #askatrainer, leave them in the comments, or email us at !