COVID-19 was never part of the plan for anyone – and certainly not for Hilarapy.
When professional stand-up comedian and registered counsellor Lizzie Allan first founded her White Rock-based comedy-as-therapy company (formerly Addictive Comedy), it was focused on helping those with a history of alcohol and substance abuse – or sundry other trauma and loss issues – recover through the process of creating stand-up comedy.
But since the current pandemic shut down its live performance platforms, Hilarapy (recipient of the 2020 South Surrey & White Rock Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Award for supporter of the arts) has also taken on a role as a provider of online therapy – not to mention entertainment – that can help many who are simply feeling isolated by the requirements of distance, or staying within household bubbles.
Not that any of the other issues have gone away – in many cases, the pandemic has only exacerbated them – which makes maintaining connection, even virtually, even more important.
“When lockdown hit in mid-March, we instantly recognized that we could no longer do group therapy, public comedy shows, workshops with different recovery organizations, and all of the other engagements we’ve been involved in,” Allan said.
“Over time, I’ve come to recognize that when a door closes, it’s just best to let go of that and look for the new opportunities. Look where the other doors are opening.”
The current online program aims to provide options for anyone who can benefit from Hilarapy’s ‘healing with humour’ approach, Allan’s business and life partner Elaine Cheung said.
This includes live therapeutic sessions and live comedy workshopping sessions available on alternating Thursdays, while Allan also conducts weekly Q&A and information sessions for the comedy-therapy curious.
In addition, Allan offers private one-on-one consultation sessions in which she provides guidance for goal- and vision-setting for personal projects or aspirational objectives.
“Traumatic events have been the way most people used to enter therapy,” Cheung said. “For many years, support was somewhat limited. What we’re doing is continuing to build a community of support.
“When you come into Hilarapy, everyone around you is supportive and understanding. It’s perfectly okay to come in with a traumatic experience, but you don’t have to if you don’t have one. Both are welcome and supported.”
The entertaining side of what the company does will be highlighted Saturday Dec. 12 at 1 p.m., as it presents its Hilarapy Virtual Stage Comedy Show.
In the online presentation, graduates and current students of the program will take to the ‘stage’ to present a festive-season version of one of the company’s regular showcases.
Tickets are $7 (in US currency – which makes transactions simpler since Hilarapy offerings are now presented globally) at https://hilarapy.kartra.com/calendar/virtualstage
A new area for Hilarapy – but one that fits right in with the company’s philosophy – is ‘laughing yoga.’
It’s not, technically, a form of yoga, they say – but it is based on the scientific principle that even the act of laughing releases natural ‘feel good’ chemicals produced by the human body, boosting our immune system, reducing stress and alleviating depression. Another plus, according to Allan and Cheung, is that it works for all ages and ability-levels and doesn’t require mats or fancy workout clothing – merely a desire to laugh.
Visiting teachers Tanya Horne and Siobhan Coates are currently conducting regular online classes on Monday evenings and Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, and the concept is proving so popular that Allan and Cheung have decided to showcase it for others in two upcoming free events.
The 45-minute Laughing Yoga Holiday Party (Dec. 13 and Dec. 20, at 10 a.m.) is available for singles, couples or families, by registering at https://www.hilarapyhub.com/laughing-yoga-holiday-party
Also on the horizon is another free event, the Seniors Seasonal Comedy Café (Dec. 16 at 1 p.m.), featuring Hilarapy with Allan and friends, plus Steve ‘Elvis’ Elliott and MC Gordie Hogg, along with draw prizes.
For more information on all sessions and events available through Hilarapy, visit hilarapy.com