Thursday, 25 January 2018

A new character exercise to help people go beyond default characters.

Blog by Steve Roe, Director of Hoopla Impro. Improv courses, shows and improv comedy club in London, UK. 

We conjured up this new character exercise at last weekend's character workshop at Hoopla. 

A couple of the improvisers were asking about how to go beyond their default characters. They felt they had a habit of playing the same go-to characters in improv shows and workshops. 

We pointed out that there was nothing wrong with their default characters, and they were still welcome, but came up with the following exercise to help them find other characters. 

1. Two improvisers on stage. 
2. They declare to the audience what their default  character is, for example "I play this weird little hunchback goblin dude". 
 3. They then tell the audience their three tips of how to play that character if someone else was to do it. For example "be low status with crazy hunched physical change, have a voice that goes all over, be anxious and nervey". 
4. The audience then decide on an opposite behaviour for each one of the three points, for example "be high status and upright, have a steady smooth voice, be confident and in control". 
5. The new three behaviours become the new character. 
6. Three audience members are helpers, and are in charge of one behaviour each. 
7. The original improviser now plays a scenes in their new character, if they ever need more of a new behaviour the audience buddies calmy say "more high status", "more upright", "be confident" etc. 

It had the effect of putting people into a new character they hadn't been on stage before. 

Another thing that popped up is improvisers said when they were playing default characters they felt like they were actually thinking as themselves in the scene, but with the new character the character was doing all the work and they found themselves responding as character rather than them pretending to be a character. 

This suggests one reason people get stuck in default characters is it keeps them safe and in control. But playing a new character means more focus and is more thrilling, as we don't know where they will take us.

I think default characters also come out of habit. We receive the cue "we're doing an improv scene" and it triggers the process that we may have received warm feedback for before "do weird little hunchback goblin dude" and before we know it all improv feels the same. 

Just to clarify, I do like weird little goblin dude characters and we can keep our default characters to still come out every now and then! 

Blog by Steve Roe, Director of Hoopla Impro. Improv courses, shows and improv comedy club in London, UK. 

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Hoopla Big Christmas Thanks!

Blog by Steve Roe, Director of Hoopla Impro. Improv courses, shows and improv comedy club in London, UK. 

Hi everyone. This is my big Christmas thank you blog! I've been trying to write it all week and have procrastinated and procrastinated and now it is midnight on Christmas Eve and I have to write it now after watching It's A Wonderful Life for the first time ever!

About 11 years ago it was easy to thank everyone in Hoopla. They were all in the Bedford in Balham every Thursday night, and there were about 11 of them. Back then it felt like it was even possible to know the entire London improv scene. There were about 5 people performing at The Wheatsheaf, 5 at The Bedford, 5 at The Bell, and some professionals at the Comedy Store, and about 5 audience members to share between us. 

Now improv is massive and Hoopla survives due to the work and play of 100s of people. So many people make an improv company work so thank you so much everyone! I know I'm in danger of turning it into a sentimental American movie but it's Christmas and i've just got to! 

Thank you so much everyone at The Miller - James Pain, Jen, Charles Ross, Jess, Luke, Ollie and all the staff. They are so supportive of improv it is off the improv scale and they do so much for us and are amazing in every way. Jen even protected an entire pub from a terrorist attack this year. 

Thank you to all of our teachers you are all amazing and I love working with you so much and I just want to bring improv fun to as many people as possible in the most fun way possible and you do that. 

Thank you to all the show groups, performers, directors, coaches, cabaret acts, stand ups, hosts, tech improvisers, musicians and more. Every time I sit and watch I'm blown away by the things that are happening now with improv, there are so many brave new directions and a spirit right now that anything is possible. It's electric. 

Thank you everyone on our corporate team for parachuting into companies and delivering improv joy, people at work are just improvisers in disguise! And thank you Max for turning it into a professional team.

Thank you to all of lovely audience. I love being there each Saturday and seeing familiar faces. Thank you for taking a punt on improv in the first place and coming back, and thank you for your enthusiasm and allowing us to put on great things!

Thank you to everyone who has done a course or workshop with us this year and all years. When I first did improv I turned up half an hour early so I could lock myself in the toilet and say "you can do this" over and over again, so I admire and respect anyone for stepping on stage for the first time. If an asteroid was hitting Earth in November I would probably still teach courses September - October.

MEGA THANKS for all of our front of house, hosting, photography and tech volunteers this year. This has made a colossal difference to us and allowed us to go from two shows a week to full-time next year. I mean it, without you there wouldn't be as many shows. Helping out at someone else's show makes the biggest difference to improv scene.  

Thank you to all of our workshop venues we use at The Nursery, Theatre Delicatessen and more, you are all so professional and friendly and easy to work with and I don't know how you do it but thank you! 

Thank you to everyone involved in all of our filming and recording, even the first one had a cast of 1000s and we hope to put on more Ben Hur epics next year! 

Thanks to EVERYONE involved in the Hoopla Improv Marathon which was the most bonkers weekend of my life and I think I will remember for ever. For me that is what Hoopla is all about - it was gloriously chaotic and yet from that rose moments of great beauty where everyone felt totally connected. 

EXTRA SPECIAL THANKS to Angela Pollard who has joined our team and my only regret is not hiring her 11 years ago as you have made such a difference and I can't wait for the all the exciting things we will work on next year. 

Thank you all FRIENDS especially Edgar and Jason for being there and letting me talk endlessly about Hoopla and nothing else. 

And THANK YOU my lovely wife George for being so patient and kind and lovely and for being Hoopla's unofficial creative consultant and helping me understand my own mind better than I can myself. 

And thank you to everyone else involved in Hoopla!!!

I don't mind saying that Hoopla is a lot of hard work sometimes, I'm often totally out of my depth and I there have been times over the years where I have felt like giving up. But always at the moment there is something that happens that makes me leap up and down and shout "THAT'S IT! THAT'S WHY WE DO THIS!!!!!!". It might be a Project 2 show where Fred Deakin seamlessly integrates a soundscape into an awesome scene and every single person in the audience is captivated, or Richard Soames making every person in the audience be a dinosaur. Or it's in a workshop where a beginners course turn up on week 7 and THEY ARE JUST AWESOME, or week 1 of a course and someone makes an observation about an exercises that is better than any improv book written ever. Sometimes it is even Angela and me having a chat that "submitting press listings is boring" and then falling about laughing because before that we always did that by ourselves and thought we were the only ones to feel that way. 

Every single day something happens to make me love improv again. 

Today I was watching It's A Wonderful Life and found myself admiring the community they have in that film, where everyone knows each other and lives near each other. Then I realised we have that in improv. We might all live in different towns, have different jobs, work in different places, but there is something about improv that brings people together and crosses those divides. 

What I enjoy most about improv is stepping into the unknown. We had Adam Meggido from Showstoppers in as a guest teacher just before Christmas and it was great to get back to the thrill of just stepping out of the audience, stepping on stage, connecting to your scene partner, and stepping into the unknown together. That's the first thing I loved about improv, and it seems somehow endless. 

So next year we're stepping into the unknown again. I have absolutely no idea what's going to happen, but I'm really excited about it, and thank you everyone for being part of it. 


Blog by Steve Roe, Director of Hoopla Impro. Improv courses, shows and improv comedy club in London, UK.

Image result for it's a wonderful life

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Many thanks from us to everyone involed in the Hoopla Improv Marathon!

Blog by Steve Roe, Director of Hoopla Impro. Improv courses, shows and improv comedy club in London, UK. 
Wow that was quite a weekend!!!

Many thanks to everyone involved in watching, working, volunteering, performing, watching, dancing, glow stick waving and more! 

The weekend was made up of a team of 100s of people so I can't name check everyone but I want to let everyone know that it meant a huge amount to me and everyone in Hoopla and we really appreciate everyone getting involved to such an amazing extent.

I only just woke up recently so haven't checked in with The Miller about how much was raised for charity (Team Margot), but I should know soon and I think it probably smashed all our expectations. 

Here's some extra special thanks for people!

Georgina Roe - thank you for being such an amazing person and looking after me through the festival! 

Audience - It was amazing having people watching a show at odd times like 3am on a Friday and Saturday night, and then an epic busy 10am show on Saturday and Sunday! Thank you so much for coming out at weird times and giving us a go. It far exceeded all our expectations so thank you!

Roxanne - A very special member of the audience who made it to every single show over the entire weekend! She started to hallucinate late night Saturday and felt it was all part of the experience. We salute you!

Charles Ross - The owner of The Miller, thank you so much for letting us put on our crazy things and taking a chance on this. 

James Pain - Also from The Miller, you did an amazing job thank you so much for sorting out everything with council, staffing, acts, me, press, promoting and more. You're an awesome bloke!

Jen, Jess, Ross, Ollie, Luke and everyone at The Miller - Thank you so much for everything this weekend and always. Working through the night, looking after us during terrorist attacks, you are amazing people and having a drink with you all at 4am was one of my favourite bits of the weekend. 

Angela Pollard - Thank you for bringing me chocolate at the best time moments ever and thank you for everything you do with our shows, press, promoting and more. In August it was just an idea on a flip chart paper in a dusty office, and it's happened!

Myrian Panayi - Thank you so much for doing front of house for a million and two hours and for being so patient and calm and for looking after me when I was tired! 

Emily Brazee - Thank you for doing the best and most organised press job ever, you are amazing!

Tim Grewcock - Thank for sorting out our late night shows and inspiring the marathon in the first place with your tales of New York. You have great taste and you were totally right, Spring Watch at 3am is what the crowd needs. 

Phil Lunn - Thank you for playing for so many people and for bringing such amazing shows. 

Liam Brennan - Thank you for being in the most shows ever over the weekend and for being my on the floor of a pub sleeping buddy.  

Rob T and Clusterf**k - Thank you for bring such a great variety of acts! 

ACTS AND GROUPS - Thanks for wanting to do it in the first place! I wasn't even sure if people would want to perform at 3am in the morning, but your enthusiasm was amazing and you brought the most exciting improv I have ever seen. Thanks for doing such a great job and for being so fun to work with. 

Method Acting Award for staying in character off-stage: The Bareback Kings.
Staying in role as South London geezers so much that I even thought Rebecca Schuster hadn't been there all weekend until I realised I'd been talking to her geezer character instead.

The Mega Face Award for late night fun: Hot Morris.
Providing improvised Morris dancing to the masses! Morris Dancing is BACK in the cool books of the UK. 

The Spirit of Hoopla award: Kathy and Unai in the morning. 
When I first announced the marathon I thought NOBODY would want the 8am slots on Saturday or Sunday morning. Instead Kathy and Unai immediately emailled and said they wanted BOTH of them for an early morning breakfast show, which they then run both days even after being there late night before, and even put on cream teas. They were upbeat and cheerful just when the weekend needed it!

The Merchandise award: Kathy and Unai in the morning. 
I've never seen a one off show with it's own mugs, badges, signs, fan club and more before, but I like it!

The Higher State of Consciousness Award: Dave Waller.
At 5am Dave played whale music mixed with hip hop while Tim Grewcock run a guided meditation through a loudspeaker while we played with lights and sound to an audience of three people including the manager of the Miller. Thank you Dave!

The Community Spirit Award: Phil Lunn's Hoopla Village Hall Choral Society.
20 people up on stage, together for the first time, at 11:30am on a Saturday morning improvising together as a choir. Very beautiful moment thank you Phil!

The Roof Raiser Award: The Dreaming. 
This is a really incredible show. Two people (Alex Fradera and John Agaiou) with the most big and physical improv show I have ever seen. Incredibly funny and gripping and PASSIONATE!

The Audience Participation Award: Improvised Crystal Maze.
This HAS to happen again! Audience members complete crystal maze puzzles improvised out of thin air.

The Innovation Award: Dark Matters.
This was one of my favourite moments of the festival, put together by people who I think have only been doing improv with us for a year or so. An improvised shadow puppet show. It was their first time putting it on, and only 10 minutes, and yet it was the most professional and well executed show I have seen in ages. Put together with a real love and care that translated into the cast members who had a sense of care and playfulness and love for each other that inspired one audience member at the end of the festival to say that it summed up how to do improv: "love each other even when in shadows". 

The International Award: Kevin Miller with History Under the Influence.
This was an incredible show. Kevin (from Hideout Theatre Texas) put together a cast of people he had only just met and put together an incredibly fun narrative show. 

The National Rail Award for furthest traveled: Direct Theatre. Next time I see you I will hopefully have slept enough to have a personality and social skills and be able to say hello properly! Thank you for coming and weaving your fish and chip shop magic! 

Legends of Improv Award: Stephen Frost, Steve Steen, Alan Marriott, Phil Whelans, Dylan Emery and Suki Webster: You all inspired me when I was first starting in improv, with teaching, shows, Comedy Store Players, Whose Line and more. Seeing you perform at Hoopla was an honour and a pleasure thank you! 

Our regular groups and teachers: Thank you so much I'm so lucky to have you in my life and Hoopla you are so great and lovely to work with thank you so much! You hold this altogether so thanks for sticking with us!

We've asked The Miller if we can do it again next year, probably late September, fingers crossed!

Love each other even when in shadows. 

Blog by Steve Roe, Director of Hoopla Impro. Improv courses, shows and improv comedy club in London, UK.