Wednesday, November 17, 2010

We're getting ready to DUET ALL NIGHT LONG

Our next show, DUET ALL NIGHT LONG, is coming up and I'm just so excited to tell y'all about it.

First off, it's at the FORT STREET CAFE (742 Fort St). the FORT STREET CAFE has some of the best food for an affordable price, fantastic staff, a cool look, and an Atari 2600.

Secondly, this show will have a really unique format. We've been working hard to come up with duo pairs and getting some from around Victoria and Vancouver. This show will feature some of THE IMPROMANIACS and members of BOOMBOX IMPROV and REMILIO SHEEN. Our headliners for the evening will be SPEAKEASY (the brain-child of Dave Morris and Missie Peters) and HIP.BANG! all the way from Vancouver.

This show is shaping up to be one of our best.

November 30th. 7:30PM. Fort St Cafe. $10

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What's Improv?

What's Improv?

Improvisational theatre is a form of theatre that has no scripts - just like real life! The audience gives suggestions, and scenes are created right there on the spot. Actors practice to increase their skill levels but all scenes are basically made up as they go along. These are often funny, sometimes weird, but always exciting.

Improv is, at its core, a form of storytelling. How long has storytelling been around? A pretty long time I'd say. If this is true of stories so too must it be true of improvisation.
The most popular style of improv today is spot improv. Performers obtain suggestions from the audience and use these suggestions to create short, entertaining scenes. The neat thing about improv is that audience and actors are working together to create theatre.

Improv Skill Building
In order to create scenes the actors develop skills which encourage them to ‘'face the void," or live spontaneously during the scene while adhering to a few rules of the game. Generally, actors are discouraged from doing any of the following as they have been found to inhibit scene development:
* Blocking: saying "no" to an action or suggestion tends to weaken or even stop scenes.
* Wimping: is when you are unclear about your suggestion (e.g. this "thing.")
* Gagging: is saying jokes or lines that take away from the story or scene.
* Bridging: adding too many things to the scene can give it little substance.
The Basic Skills that are encouraged are...
* Saying "Yes" to offers - very important to allow scenes to progress.
* Following Story Lines - with a Beginning, Middle and Ending to each scene.
Further skills are creativity, risk taking, trusting, listening, team work, accepting new ideas and making your fellow actors look good. All this on top of some basic acting skills!
A Brief History of Improvisation
Many different improvisational styles have organically developed throughout history. One form popular throughout Europe was known as Commedia Dell'Arte originating in the mid-1500' and surviving almost 200 years.
More recently, Keith Johnstone and Viola Spolin were key artists who separately and spontaneously re-invented Improv as it exists today.
Keith Johnstone grew up in England, and later brought his teachings to the University of Calgary. Johnstone wanted to bring theatre to the common people, the same audience that Shakespeare had written for in his day. Johnstone combined elements of both theatre and sports, to form something called Theatresports. This was a marriage of team sports to the improvisational theatre context where teams competed for points awarded by judges. Audiences would be encouraged to cheer for good scenes and jeer the judges.
Through Theatresports, Johnstone's ideas have gone on to influence (directly or indirectly) almost every major improv group. In the 1920's and 1930's, a woman named Viola Spolin began a new approach to the teaching of acting based on learning the craft of acting as a series of games.
Spolin's son, Paul Sills, later became one of the driving forces of improvisational theatre centered around the University of Chicago in the mid-1950's. Del Close, David Shepherd, and Sills created an ensemble of actors who developed a kind of "modern Commedia" which would appeal to the average man in the street. Again, the goal was to create theatre that was accessible to everyone.
It eventually led to the development of a company called Second City.
Through The Compass and Second City, Spolin's Theatre Games have gone on to influence an entire generation of improvisational performers.
There are many books written on the subject of IMPROV. A good start are those written by Keith Johnstone (Methuen). Another suggestion is "Something Wonderful Right Away" by Jeffrey Sweet (Limelight).

Message from Die Gorillas (Berlin, Germany)

Victoria - the place where I met a lot of exciting an inspiring collegues and the city from which Ramona and me after the festival took this public bus bringing us to the countryside - and we loved it, altough we have not seen a bear.
(Christoph, Gorillas Berlin) Victoria - unforgettable the festival, the hosts, the parents from the hosts (thank you for the nice hint for the countryside) but most unforgettable the audience: I did my first english spoken show there with my college Christoph and all the audience did as if they would understand what we performed. Thank you for this great experience.
(Ramona, Gorillas Berlin)
Congratulations and a BIG HUG!!!
From all of the twelve Gorillas!!

The Audition Process by Jonathan Argue

I bet you are wondering just how we do audition people… Auditioning new members for an improv company is different than auditioning people for a play, for example. In the case of a play, the characteristics of the people you are looking for is pretty much set by the script itself, and the person who is directing the piece.
Male, female, young, middle aged
Does the cast look “good” together?
Do the brother and sister characters “look” like they are related? (If they are supposed to be)
…and the list goes on.

At the end of the run, you generally don’t have any obligation to continue working with your cast… which could be a godsend if any personality / philosophy differences developed during the run.
For the purposes of an improv company, specifically the Impromaniacs, we audition with a long term perspective in mind.

Well, in improv, as in life, there are no “pre-set” scripts – we have to learn to work together (almost to the point of reading each other’s thoughts) in order to tell a coherent story.
This level of team takes time and dedication to develop, and generally requires a high degree of trust between members of the team.
Yes, to the Impromaniacs, trust in each other is paramount.
Now, I’m not saying that we need to be BFFs, but at least we need to be able to work together without driving each other crazy all the time.
Sound like a cult? A clique? A club?
Well, no, we’re not. Although it might seem that the needs of the group outweigh the needs of the individual members, we do strive to meet halfway.
But I digress.

Back to the audition process itself.

It’s a multistep process that starts out with the initial audition. We invite people to join us for just under a 2 hour workshop. We brief people on the philosophy of the company and let them know the things we are looking for – which are primarily the ability to function as part of a team.
We also let people know that callbacks are based on a unanimous vote. That’s right; every member present for the audition has to agree to callback an auditioner. They are given the opportunity to voice any concerns they may have regarding an auditioner and discuss with the Impromaniacs members present (this, by the way, takes place after the auditioners have left). It is essential that everyone that is invited back for callbacks does not make any of the members feel uncomfortable or unsafe. We may be “iffy” on some callbacks, in which case the Performance Director(s) ask for issues to watch for with auditioners and to see if the issues are resolved (with coaching) over the next three workshops.
“Next three?” you ask. Yes, the auditioners we decide to callback, are invited to return for the next three workshops. Not only is it a chance for Impromaniacs members to get to know them better, and perhaps more importantly, it’s a chance for auditioners to get to know the Impromaniacs. Can they fit us into their schedule? Do they like improv? Do they like the Impromaniacs?
After all, we’re not about to force people to stay. If a member is generally not enjoying their time with us, then maybe it’s time to move on.

At the end of the three workshops, again the Impromaniacs decide through unanimous vote who is offered membership. At that point it’s up to a combination of the Managing Director and Performance Director(s) to contact each of the auditioners and advise them of the result.
Overall, I am told the process is a stressful one to go through… but beyond trying to make the experience as enjoyable as possible for the auditioner, I am not sure it should be changed.
On the other hand, I never had to experience it for myself as I designed it in the first place.

Humble Beginnings by Bill Nance

It was in the Spring of 1989 that a bold idea took shape in the brain of Clark M. Clark, thespian and all-around good guy. I had met Clark several months before; we appeared together in "the Hunting of The Snark" at The South Island Zone Theatre Festival.
We found that we each had an interest in comedy, but, although I had vaguely heard of improvisation, I didn't really know what it was or what went into it. Fortunately Clark did. I was quite the gadabout at that point in my life, floating between jobs and looking for fame and -more importantly-fortune in the world of acting. So, when Clark mentioned that Langham Court Theatre was looking for backstage help and walk-on roles, I  agreed eagerly to lend a hand.
As anyone who has ever been involved in a theatrical production will know, the rehearsal process, while thrilling and creative, has moments of tedium as well. It was during one of these "waiting for things to happen" periods that Clark raised the idea of starting an improv troupe. Agreeable soul that I was, I happily offered to go along for the ride. And what a ride it has turned out to be, my prettys.
Fast forward to late Summer '89. Clark had ads and posters advertising the auditions. I chipped in with legwork, postering Victoria-way fewer bylaws back then-and offering moral support and enthusiasm. We even had a venue; Clark had settled on the Fernwood Community Association. Only one thing was missing. The players. Would anybody show? Or would it be over before it started? The big day arrived. Saturday. 9:30 am. Emotions tumbled together: Hope. Fear.  Anticipation. Finally, the door opened and in walked one-no, two!-auditioners. Soon came a third. A fourth! Eventually there were seven: bright-eyed and eager to get started. Their names still resonate with me. Phil. Dan. Erin. Another Phil. Joan. Noel. Doug.
The initial workshops-we called them rehearsals back then-involved introductory exercises, some basic character work, and Trust games. It turned out that Phil #1, his brother Dan, and Erin, as well as Clark himself, all had a background in TheatreSports (tm) and so it didn't take long before we were working on simple games: Freeze Tag, Line Story, Arms Debate. I blocked, wimped, and waffled my way through, feeling the initial stirrings of something which for me would be life-changing.
Oh, did I mention we had no name at this point? How did Impromaniacs get chosen? Via a rousing session of "Let's Choose A Name" on an early Saturday morning over breakfast at Humpty's (now Alzu's). Yours truly raised the Impromaniacs as a moniker idea, and to my surprise everyone liked it. It fit. We did improv, and acted like maniacs. Thus was a legend born. We did shows at a number of small venues that first winter. Audiences came. More importantly, they liked.
As 1990 moved along, so too did The Impromaniacs. We workshopped and grew as a company. We became friends. Some of the original seven departed, but most stayed, and gaps were filled by young and hungry theatre students. Julian Polzin. James McKillop. Melissa Vandershyff. By the end of the summer, we were nine and playing at The Belfry Theatre. Wow. That was nearly twenty years ago, and The Impromaniacs roll on, stronger than ever.
The company became a registered non-profit in 1992, produced The Singe Festival in 1997 and 2000, and has been the first improv company in Victoria to move away from short-form and embrace long-form. In 2003, The first Victoria International Improv Festival was produced. There have now been four, each one growing in stature and reputation. There have been Cage Matches and TheatreSports (tm). Long-form and Short-form. Hugs and Grins. And to think it all started with two guys and a flame that has refused to be extinguished.