Monday, 23 December 2013

23rd December 2013: Hoopla’s Improv Highlights of the Year

It’s been a busy and fun year. So much has happened, I can’t remember it all, but here’s some fond improv memories of 2013. 
Warning! This blog is more sentimental than the end of a Robin Williams movie!


This year especially as we had more and more people involved with what we do. There’s so many, but we’d like to say a special thanks to the following (in random order), without whom we wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing:
Mike Hutcherson: Mike has been at every show we put on, hosting, performing (in Glitch, Mike & Constantine and We Lost Our Puppets and more), doing lights. Everything. Without him The Miller wouldn’t have been running this Autumn. Thank you Mike for everything, your constant advice and for caring passionately about making things happen, and making things happen. 

Georgina Bream: She’s my fiance, and also pretty much Hoopla’s Creative Consultant. Every idea I have I bounce off her and she’s always so patient and always has time.

Edgar Fernando: Oh my gosh it’s been so much fun having him back. We started Hoopla together but then Edgar wasn’t doing much impro the last few years due to work, but he’s been back this Autumn. Talking to him about impro makes me realise what’s important, he’s really got it and cuts through complication and brings it back to being human in a good mood.
Maria Peters: For year’s it was just me and Edgar and occasional teachers but this year Maria has joined up as a full teacher, best decision ever! She brings so much joy, enthusiasm, excitement and her students are doing some amazing improv. Looking forward to doing more and more with her. 

Max Dickins: Max has also joined us a full teacher, running our stand-up courses. He’s been encouraging students to jump into a more honest form of stand up, sharing their lives and stories, and some of them have already started winning competitions. He’s also been amazing at spreading impro into the workplace, where we’ve been teaching together for various companies. Like Maria he keeps me going!

Jess Fremont: Jess was delivered to us like an impro angel from Canada. I was at The Miller and after the show she marched straight up to me and said “I’m from Loose Moose in Canada, I’ve come to run your front of house”. And she did, really well. She bonds people together, makes everywhere a joy to be, and I really miss our late night McDonald’s planning meetings!

Shawn Collinson: Our second impro angel from Canada! Just after Jess left, Shawn arrived as if by magic. He’s been doing amazing things all Autumn, working on our marketing for shows especially and also some new venues. Long-term this is going to enable us to do more and more shows and attract a larger mainstream audience. He’s so patient with my scattiness, and such a cool guy, thank you Shawn!

Patrick Vermillion: Our improv angel from New York! Patrick was volunteering with front of house all Autumn and also gave us loads of advice on how to run shows, borrowed from the New York improv scene. His tips are coming into play in the New Year, he’s made such a difference. We miss you!

Conor and Constantine: They aren’t the same person, but I’ve put them together because they both make me happy whenever I see them. In addition to performing they’ve also been volunteering with hosting and front of house and planning and loads of things. 

Jon Monkhouse: Earlier on The Miller was a combination of Hoopla and London Improv (run by Jon) and his amazing work is still keeping it going today. Thanks also for Balham lunches, late night snacks and lovely improv chats. 

Sophie Pumphrey: We constantly talk about what improv/life is and what it could be, a conversation that will thankfully never have an end, and this is really inspirational on all our workshops. 

Vanda: She’s a constant support to everything we do. If either of us are having an improv meltdown we fix each other. 

Jules Munns: Jules does amazing things. The improv scene has become so much more exciting since he arrived. Teachers and groups coming from across the world to our city, so amazing.

John Cremer: John is a constant support and mentor and guru (he hates being called guru) to us. He’s like my original source of improv, and I wouldn’t be doing any of this without him. He introduced me to the whole world! 

Dylan Emery: Loads of what we’re doing now comes from advice Dylan gave to me about four years ago at 3am at The Edinburgh Fringe. He’s got kids, a busy job, he’s in about four improv groups and somehow he still finds time to help out us and the whole impro scene. 

James Pain at The Miller: Yeah! Love this guy. He’s taken a punt on us and given us the weekends at The Miller next year. He’s been supporting us for over three years now, through ups and downs.

Silas at The Rag Factory: We definitely wouldn’t be doing so much without Silas. He keeps me sane when I’ve lost my marbles with his post workshop 10pm outside big life chats. 

Rhiannon, Phil, James, Ben, Abag, Chris Mead and The Music Box gang: Whenever I see this lot I’m happy, there’s nothing as fun as stepping on stage with them not knowing what is about to happen. 

Joel Butler: One of the original Hoopla performers, and great to have him back after a few years away. 

Everyone who’s performed at our nights: So many great groups this year and so many new improvisers mixing with current improvisers, such exciting times. Thanks everyone who has been doing so much. 

Everyone who has been to a workshop: It’s so great to be able to spend a whole year laughing, thanks to everyone for jumping in and improvising, so many people for the first time ever. 

Everyone who has been to a show: The sound of a room full of people laughing is a dream come true.
Basically at the exact point I sometimes feel like giving up and doing something else someone appears and peps me up and makes improv worthwhile all over again. I constantly rediscover the joy of improv on a weekly basis, and always due to the people involved.
There are so many people to thank for an amazing year, way more than I had space to list above, thank you everyone!


There’s been so many things this year, here’s just a selection of what I can remember:

IO Week: Thanks to Rob and Jules for making this happen. I was lucky enough to be taught by Charna Halpern the founder of IO in Chicago and it was a real joy. It taught me the true power of Agreement in improv. There’s more about that on our previous blog

The Mayday’s Residential Improv Festival at Osho Leela: This was one of the biggest highlights to me. It was actually a life changing experience. It's hard to put it into words, as it was more an experience of emotions and feelings that words on a blog don't do justice. I think for the first time in my life I experienced what real community is, and also what a powerful and good thing it can be. If I had the choice between Edinburgh Fringe and Osho Leela I'd now go for Osho Leela every time, and hope to go again next year. 

Edinburgh Improv Buzz: I couldn’t make it to Edinburgh this year but I enjoyed picking up the buzz on so many improv groups doing so well again, and such a variety too. Short-form, long-form, narrative, musicals, Edinburgh had it all going on. 

End of Course Shows: I love every single end of course show that we put on. The stakes are so high, people are nervous (including me), the audience are new to improv. Every single show features a level of excitement, joyfullness and playfullness that makes me fall in love with improv all over again. 

Annoyance, UCB, Montreal Improv Weekends and more: There were loads of improv teachers coming over from North America and Europe, London is so exciting at the moment because we get to learn from everyone from across the globe. 

Slapdash Festival: This was a great one, thanks to Jules for putting it all together. Before our show (Music Box) I had the worse performance anxiety ever, so much so I had to sit with my head in my hands in a coffee shop for an hour. But the second I walked back stage and saw Andrew Gentilli and the rest of the Music Box cast I was in a good mood again. 

UK Border Patrol: This was an end of course show from our long-form course that seems to have gone down in legend. One of those shows where it just clicks and everything comes together. 

The Round Table Crash Pad: We went back to The Round Table for one night and there was an eventful show with Bob falling out of a window and a story set on the Love Star being performed entirely in flashback mode. 

All New Shows: There have been so many new shows and groups forming this year, the improv scene feels like a living a breathing organism now and it’s growing up quick. It’s alive!!!!!!

Beginners: It’s been a pleasure this year to introduce so many people to the joy of improv, well done for jumping into it. I never ever tire of introducing people to listening, yes and, spontaneity and having fun with games. 

Epic Crash Pads: Many of these are totally bonkers. 15 groups performing in one night in a small sweaty room above a pub. It’s Peter Brook’s Rough Theatre at it’s finest and it’s producing new theatre and seeds of ideas. What’s great about the Crash Pads is that now when show ideas happen they get done without hesitation. 

Breaking and Entering cracking it: Maria and Lauren performed together, went to Chicago together and then performed Breaking and Entering together. At their last show the audience made the sound of an audience recognising a group who had ‘cracked it’, they’ve got their thing. Fun, joy, characters, truth, game, play, laughs, emotion, their show has it got it all going on in every single scene. 

Rap Workshop: This made Edgar happy, he said this is what Hoopla is all about. I was teaching an emotionally real naturalistic Meisner for Improv workshop upstairs while Dave Waller taught  freestyle rap downstairs. I agree, that’s what it’s all about. 

Weekend classes at 3:30pm: The best improv I see is usually at 3:30pm on one of our weekend classes where a group have warmed up together, played together and suddenly they are there in the magic zone. 

Saturday Night Improv: We experimented with putting on shows on Saturday nights. They went down well. They went down so well that The Miller offered us every weekend for the whole of 2014. Nice one. 

Last Night’s Improv Jam: This was so much fun! I wasn’t sure if people would be up for a late night impro jam starting at 10pm, but actually it was our busiest one yet. A mix of people who’d never been on stage of people and experienced improvisers playing together. It opens the doors to more late night shows next year, which is great. 

Music Box Last Show: I loved performing with Music Box so much. It’s the most fun show to perform in, exhilarating. You step on stage and into a made up world for 45 minutes, you can go anywhere in time and space, the cast of Music Box make improv fun. 

ImproFest UK: This was very exciting and the festival really nailed the marketing this year so it was great to perform to full houses. 

God, Jesus and the Devil surfing with a Vicar: I don’t usually remember scenes but this was a fun one. 

Airplanes and Tube Trains: This was from a long-form groups end of course shows. We spent ages in the course learning about edits and tags, but in the show they decided not to use them in a piece and instead set a whole 15 minute scene on one row of an airplane. It was awesome. So amazing that the next show they set a whole 15 minute scene on one row of a tube train. I thought it was the best scene I’ve seen all year, a true ensemble working together like magic. 

Monday Night Drop Ins: I miss these so much! 20 people laughing together in a weird room at The Rag Factory while it rains outside on a Monday night. We had to stop them as they got too busy, but they’ll be back in a different form in the New Year. They had the most intense atmopshere out of everything we do. 

Countless nights in The Princess Alice: Pint of Doom Bar please. I still owe Fraser a pint of Guiness.

Meeting Susan Messing in the pub: I couldn’t make the Susan Messing workshop but accidentally met her at a pub near Brick Lane. A random place to meet an improv legend, and she fitted right in.

People coming back from America with new stuff: London is absorbing influences from all over the place now and it’s great. What is the London improv style? It’s a melting pot, it’s whatever you want it to be. 

Mark Beltzman workshops in the snow: The year started with me trudging through Kings Cross snow to do workshops with Mark Beltzman, such a positive guy and put me in a good mood for the rest of the year. What he taught is what I’m most likely to refer to when performing: talk to each other about each other.

Thanks again to everyone for making it such a fun year!!!
Merry Christmas everyone!


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