Saturday, 31 December 2016

Impro highlights of 2016 and plans for 2017.


Hoopla impro courses and shows are back second week of January, details at www.HooplaImpro.com

Blog by Steve Roe, Director of Hoopla Impro. Courses, shows and improv club in London, UK.
Twitter: @HooplaImpro
Facebook: /HooplaImpro
Website: www.HooplaImpro.com


This blog isn't going to talk about politics or dead celebrities. Not that those things haven't been sad this year, it's just that this is an impro blog and I'm an impro savant. Weirdly 2016 has actually been a really good year for improv, which means I have turned into this idiot in a daily mash article: http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/news/society/2016-best-year-of-my-life-says-fking-idiot-20161219119212

So here's a selection of some of my personal improv highlights of 2016:


Introducing lots of beginners to improv

I love running our beginners courses and I love seeing people improvise on stage for the first time. Seeing people go from totally new to anything on stage to then improvising in front of a live audience is quite a thrill to us teachers as well as them. 

Partnerships

This Hoopla wouldn't exist at all without the great relationships we have with The Nursery, The Miller, The Maydays, The Poor School, The Charles Dickens School, C3Something, Duck Duck Goose, Theatre Delicatessen, St Mungo's, The Horse all of our performing groups, all of our teachers and many many more. In fact just attempting to write that list made me realise that there are easily 100 other groups/charities/organisations that we rely on and couldn't exist without.

In 2016 I really realised the huge value in partnering with other groups and organisations as it enables us to do so much more than we could by ourselves.

Performance Groups

Again over Christmas I've realised how lucky we are to have so many great performing groups working with us. Do Not Adjust Your Stage, Glitch, Guest Speaker, Geekeasy, The Playground, Music Box, RH Experience, TSOLT, GTI, C3Something, Maydays, Giggle Loop and Story Kitchen are just of the regularly performing groups and there are almost a 100 more who come and perform too.


Plus it's been really exciting to see so many new groups form at Launch Pads and other nights, and we're keen to support them ongoing.

Also the influence of Free Association and Monkey Toast has been really postive on us and the wider improv scence. 

Front of House Volunteers

This has been a huge change for the better this year. I put a bit of a cry for help up on facebook and twitter as we needed more help with shows and things. I was expected about 10 volunteers but instead got 100. The enthusiasm and support of these volunteers has meant that we've been able to put on more shows than ever, and are increasing our shows to 4 nights a week next year and then gradually increasing over next year to a full time venue. 

I really mean it, without the great volunteers we have we wouldn't be doing so many shows, so thank you very much it genuinely wouldn't happen without you.

If you fancy helping out at shows by the way there's some info at http://www.hooplaimpro.com/show-squad.html

Filming Team

I'm so excited about our filming team!!!! We've got a lovely team built up now and have done some training, so are ready to go with filming improv and sketches and semi-improvised sketches next year. I'm really excited about this. We've been tipping our toes into the filming world the last year but we're ready to jump in naked next year. We're just doing it for fun so please let me know if you'd like to be involved somehow.

End of course shows

Well done to everyone who performed improv for the first time this year, I really enjoyed every single end of course show. it's such a roller coaster of a journey and it's always amazing to see. I love watching people perform improv or a new form for the first time, when they are genuinely surprised at what they are saying moment by moment. 

Teachers


Big New Year shout to the Hoopla teaching team!!!!!!!!! I'm really lucky to have such a great team who are so passionate about supporting people into doing impro for the first time. I'm really lucky as I get to co-teach with Edgar who cracks me up and stops me taking anything too seriously. Plus whenever I've an impro problem I phone any of them up and chat and they not only fix my impro problem but my whole brain, thank you!

The Maydays Christmas Party

This was one of my favourite shows of the year. They do such a good job of bringing together a community of improvisers, and I've never seen a jam work so well in my life. Scene after scene was a hit and there is such a warm lovely vibe around everything they do. Also it was great to see people I knew as a beginners totally rock it on stage - Jessie and Iain I'm talking about you! 

Story Kitchen

Being in Story Kitchen is like stapling ones scrotum (or alternative) to an airplane and then seeing where it takes you. I mean that in a good way! Just when life settles down or becomes "normal" I find there is a monthly Story Kitchen show around the corner and before I know it I'm singing an opera while eating a cucumber. Faye is doing a great job of directing a box full of frogs that have inhaled jumping gas.

Panto!

Oh my gosh I loved this so much! Our last Narrative Long-Form Course of the year was Panto themed even though many of the cast, and many of the audience, had never seen a Panto. And it bloody worked!!! Ha! 

I really like this course as it combines all my favourite things into one thing: commedia dell'arte, narrative, characters, archetypes, love, death, villains, action, adventure and loads more. 

I love the London improv scene as it feels like everything from around the world, and history, is melting together to make some really great stuff. Game of the scene mixes with Narrative, Chicago improv mixes with Italian Commedia dell'Arte, theatre mixes with comedy.

Music Box

I really enjoyed every single Music Box show I saw this year and think they've really clicked as a group. The singing sounds beautiful, great use of genres and a nice balance between story, fun, character, relationships and love. 

If I was to put money on just one breakthrough group in 2017 it would be Music Box. 

The Showstoppers, The Mischief Theatre, Austentatious


It's been great to see The Showstoppers, The Mischief Theatre and Austentatious have such great mainstream success this year.

The Mischief Theatre used to be The Scat Pack improv group, before producing comedies like The Play That Goes Wrong and Peter Pan Goes Wrong. This year they've had three plays on the West End, won an Olivier Award, transferred to Broadway and got a BBC One TV show and radio show. Phew! I hope they've had a decent rest at Christmas.

What I've loved about seeing the success of them and Showstoppers and Austentatious is that it is the most well deserved thing I've ever seen. They are all some of the most hardworking improvisers out there and it's their dedication to making improv and comedy an art that has lead to their success.

At the Edinburgh Fringe The Scat Pack (later The Mischief) were performing about three shows a day, flyering all the time, guest appearing in other shows, doing all the press they could and basically working hard non-stop. And to top it all they were always really friendly and professional too. 

It's amazing to see it all pay off for them, and they've inspired many others including to me to work hard

Hoopla Plans for 2017:

  • To run lots of fun impro courses, especially for beginners and people new or newish to improv, and make those courses as fun and supportive as possible.
  • To improve diversity in the improv scene and help make improv open to all, in collaboration with other groups (more about that at http://www.hooplaimpro.com/improv-resources-community.html)
  • To increase our shows to four evenings a week from the second week of January (details on website soon). Wednesdays will be for newer groups or groups trying out new things, Thursday - Saturday will be a selection of the finest groups around. 
  • Working with groups to keep raising the standard of improv as high as possible to open up a wider audience.
  • To film lots of improv, sketches and semi-improvised sketches for fun and experience. 

Thanks again to everyone who has been involved in making this year great for improv, we really appreciate it and have a HAPPY NEW YEAR!




Hoopla impro courses and shows are back second week of January, details at www.HooplaImpro.com 

Blog by Steve Roe, Director of Hoopla Impro. Courses, shows and improv club in London, UK.
Twitter: @HooplaImpro
Facebook: /HooplaImpro
Website: www.HooplaImpro.com



Monday, 31 October 2016

Hoopla Beginners Improv Exercises - Part 2.


Blog by Steve Roe, co-founder of Hoopla Impro. Courses, shows and improv club in London, UK. Twitter: @HooplaImpro. Facebook: HooplaImpro. Website: www.HooplaImpro.com. Email: hooplaimpro@gmail.com.

Hoopla's next Beginners Improv Courses are starting in November and January in London: Beginners Improv Courses.

If you've done a Beginners Course our best next step is our Performance Improv Course, starting November and January in London: Performance Improv Course.

This is part 2 of our write up of Beginners Improv Exercises from our recent courses. For part 1 please click here.


Setting the Environment (things we say at start of class)

We have an atmosphere of safety, trust and support.
You are not by yourself, we're playing together as a team and supporting each other.
You are allowed to make mistakes, they often lead to the best bit in improv.
You can say the first thing that comes to you, you don't have to edit yourself, as long as you are coming from a place of fun, love and respect for your fellow improviser.
You don't have to be clever or funny or make up jokes, the humour comes naturally from the situation.
Listen.
Yes And.
Commit.

Warm Ups

Grandmother's Footsteps: An old children's game that we use to get people playing together. One person is Grandmother or Grandfather, stood with their back to the class. Everyone else has to sneak up and try and touch them on the shoulder. The Grandparent can turn around whenever they want and if they catch anyone moving that person goes back to the beginning and starts sneaking up again. The first person to touch Grandmother is the winner. We repeat with variations where the people sneaking up are pirates, zombies or cheeky 1950s cockneys, to encourage more fun in a game.

1,2,3: Surpisingly fun game for something so simple. Two people face each other. They count to three, changing who starts the count each time. For instance:

Brian - 1
Sarah - 2
Brian - 3
Sarah - 1
Brian - 2
Sarah - 3

We then repeat where instead of saying 2 they clap their hands, and then also adding in instead of saying 3 they jump in the air:

Brian - 1
Sarah - Clap
Brian - Jumps
Sarah - 1
Brian - Clap
Sarah - Jumps

Triangles: I orginally got this from Mick Barnfather I think, and it seems to be used by loads of people. Everyone in the room thinks of two other people, but doesn't tell them. When the director shouts go everyone tries to stay in an equilateral triangle with their two people, so the whole group is moving around and maybe even finds equilibrium.

Spontaneity Exercises

8 Things: Someone jumps into the middle of the circle. They are given a category of things to say 8 of. They say 8 things in that category as quickly as they can, with everyone shouting encouragement for each one and a round of applause at the end. It's important that everyone enthusiastically supports every suggestion, this helps the group trust each other that ever offer will be supported. They are encouraged to say the first things that come to them, the game isn't called 8 Right Things afterall! For instance:

Brian - Hi everyone I'm Brian
Everyone - Hi Brian!
Director - 8 types of holiday
Brian - Skiing!
Everyone - ONE!
Brian - Beach!
Everyone - TWO!
Brian - Safari!
Everyone - THREE!
Brian - Naked skinny dippinng holiday!
Everyone - FOUR!
Brian - Cheese museum holiday!
Everyone - FIVE!
Brian - Weston super mare!
Everyone - SIX!
Brian - Staycation!
Everyone - SEVEN!
Brian - Mountain climbing!
Everyone - EIGHT! Those were 8 things! (dance and applause).

Is there anymore?
We originally were taught this by Kevin Tomlinson. Here's an example of it:

Brian - does small sound and action
Sarah - That's great!
Brian - Thank you
Sarah - Is there anymore?
Brian - Yes! Escalates his original sound and action.
Sarah - That's great!
And it continues repeating that dialogue with the sound and action escalating.

Yes And Exercises

Captain Welcome to Ship Chat:
I have an example scene that I talk through with examples of the difference between accepting and blocking. It's a bit long to write up at the moment but I will get to it one day!

Yes Based Conversations: People in pairs have simple conversations where they use the word yes lots and say yes to statements that pop up, and try to give each offers the other person would like to do. Originally learnt from Heather at The Maydays. For instance:

Gunther: Hey, let's go to the theme park on Saturday.
Heidi: Yes, let's make a picnic to go with us.
Gunther: Yes great idea, let's take a picnic and eat it on the roller coaster.
Heidi: Yes I love extreme eating.

You can also repeat it where anything the other person says they then make it happen there and then, for instance snapping to theme park mentioned above. Also a variation is to physical act out anything that gets mentioned.

Yes And: Play a scene or conversation where every line starts with the words Yes And.

Underscore:
Two people improvise a scene with no words, physical only, while they are underscored by a film movie soundtrack. They are directed to physically yes and, being in agreement about the physical envrionment and activity and adding to it. First learnt this from Charna Halpern at IO.

Action and Justify:
One improviser does any physical action, their partner justifies what they are doing, they both agree with the established reality. For instance:

Igor: Waves arms around head wildly.
Maria: Gosh the flies out here in the wilderness are deadly.
Igor: I agree, we need to get to a bug spray shop immediately.

Being Obvious/Real/Top of Intelligence Exercises

Character Bench: Five actors sat in a row. They are all the same character type, for instance they all went to school together or they all were in a space station together. Director asks them questions which they answer, and they all agree with the first answer rather than distract from it. Coach them to say honest, real, obvious answers rather than attempting to make jokes that destroy the reality of the characters.

Scenes Exercises

Three Line Scenes: A nice way to get into doing scenes for the first time. People go pair by pair and improvise scenes with three lines in total. Either actor says the first line, then there is a reponse, then a response to that. Whatever is said is then wildly applauded, to help people get used to improvising in front of an audience.

Later in the course we can add in variations to three line scenes:
- establishing where you are
- establishing character
- establishing relationship
- bringing in emotion and reactions

But we tend to work on one thing at a time.  

Fun End Games

Pan Left: A fun game of swapping channels on an imaginary TV set. Two or three actors on back line, two others stood in front, all facing the audience. The two closest to the audience are the TV channel we are watching. If we say Pan Left they all move around one place so that we have a new TV channel at the front.


PART 3 COMING SOON!


This is part 2 of our write up of Beginners Improv Exercises from our recent courses. For part 1 please click here.


 Hoopla's next Beginners Improv Courses are starting in November and January in London: Beginners Improv Courses.

If you've done a Beginners Course our best next step is our Performance Improv Course, starting November and January in London: Performance Improv Course

 
Blog by Steve Roe, co-founder of Hoopla Impro. Courses, shows and improv club in London, UK. Twitter: @HooplaImpro. Facebook: HooplaImpro. Website: www.HooplaImpro.com. Email: hooplaimpro@gmail.com.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Some quick random tips for performing improv

Blog by Steve Roe, co-founder of Hoopla Impro. Courses, shows and improv club in London, UK. Twitter: @HooplaImpro. Facebook: HooplaImpro. Website: www.HooplaImpro.com. Email: hooplaimpro@gmail.com. 


I had a great time performing in Story Kitchen's TheatreSports on Saturday, and the show seemed to go down well with the audience. We've been rehearsing lots with Story Kitchen and it all seems to be coming together, so I thought I'd select some random tips that I felt on the night:

Relax
Relax
Relax
You don't need much of an idea to get on stage, if any
You can play with movement, sound and space when you first get on stage without having to know where it's going
Relax 
Relax
Trust your scene buddies and help them to trust you
Support everything 
Fuck yeah!
Take risks
Support the other team
Laugh and have fun
Relax
Relax
Just listen to the other person and go from there
You don't need loads of ideas
Pay attention to the first line
Be there
Relax




Blog by Steve Roe, co-founder of Hoopla Impro. Courses, shows and improv club in London, UK. Twitter: @HooplaImpro. Facebook: HooplaImpro. Website: www.HooplaImpro.com. Email: hooplaimpro@gmail.com.