Friday, 29 May 2015

Stop measuring yourself against others

Blog by Steve Roe, co-founder of Hoopla Improv, courses, shows and improv club. Twitter: @HooplaImpro. Facebook: HooplaImpro. Website: Email: 

Recently I've had a few people in workshops who have been looking like they've been having a great time all workshop, have been really fun in all the games, and yet afterwards have revealed in the pub or over email that they actually felt like they were doing really 'badly' and were the 'worse' in the group. 

Often there is a large gap between how we perceive ourselves and how we are perceived by others. Most of the  performers I know still have this, as do loads of people new to improv. 

So why do measure ourselves to others?

Here's my own experience:

I signed up for a week long intensive workshop with a visting US teacher the other year. Only torwards the end of the week did I realise that all I'd been thinking about was how well I was doing as compared to the rest of the group, whether I was the best or not, and collecting compliments the teacher said to me like mushrooms in Mario Kart. What a waste of time! It could have been a golden opportunity to form a team with the people there, to really bond, to maybe form a show group. But it was just me and my ego, sitting in the corner with my notepad. 

For me I think this attitude is a leftover from my education. 

At school with GCSEs and A-Levels we had to line up to collect our results from the headteacher. One by one we walked into his office, were given our grades, and then had to walk out where there would be about 100 of our year group who would then immediately know. Everyone knew what everyone else had got. We'd been told these results were the most important things in our lives, so how good you felt about yourself was directly connected to what you got and what you got compared to everyone else.

At my university our final results were stuck on a wall. Not a facebook wall, an actual wall. They weren't listed in alphabetical order, but in order of grade. So you would go up and start at the top looking for your name, and the further down you got until you found your name the worse you had done. Everyone else's grades were there to see, everyone knew what everyone else had got, and all they talked about in the pub afterwards was what everyone had got. Being better than everyone meant 'happy', being worse meant 'sad'. 

When studying for most exams there were right and wrong answers (I did a lot of Maths), and right and wrong methods of getting to these answers. Our value and efforts had a directly measurable result that could be directly compared to others, and my entire self worth was wrapped up in my postion in that hierarchy. 

After that there were job interviews, with lots of friends going for similar jobs, and people either got jobs ('happy') or didn't ('sad'), and then there was how much they get paid, yet again more ways for people to measure themselves against others. 

However in improv, and most creative endeavours, there is no right or wrong. This takes ages to really 'get'. There is no right or wrong, no correct outcome, no limits and no rules. The only person that can define what you want to do is you. This is scary at first but eventually liberating. You can do anything you want. What do you want to do on stage or screen? Do that. What do you find beautiful and fun? Do that. Nobody else can tell you that. Courses and things might offer options but really it's up to you to then take what you like and do what you love. 

This can be a breakthrough for beginners. Sometimes they stop mid game and say they don't know what to do, but if you ask them what they actually feel like doing, and they do it, genius can come out. After years in work or education where there is a mystical correct way of doing everything, and a prescribed sequence of actions to be learnt, to be in a fully open and creative environment can be frightening at first but eventually liberating. 

Similarly for performing groups. For ages they can try and perfect a set form, but usually they become amazing when they discover what is unique about them and pursue what they find fun, and often discover a whole new thing.

Because there is no defined value or grading system, because it's an artistic endeavour and therefore defined by the artist, there is actually no reason to compare yourself to others. Every group is singing their own song, so just sing the song you love.

Yet sometimes we don't do the things we love in improv or the arts because we fear being measured by others, but nobody can do that as there is no grading system in the first place, there is no right or wrong. A 100m runner can't tell a 100m swimmer they are too slow at the 100m, they are doing their own thing. 

So you can't do 'badly' at improv as there is no right or wrong in the first place, it is an act of pure art and creativity. And you can't be the 'worse' in the group because there is no grading system.

There are no rules in improv. There are some guidelines that help people play together, but the only person that can define the values/rules/ is you and you are totally free to do what you want. 

Blog by Steve Roe, co-founder of Hoopla Improv, courses, shows and improv club. Twitter: @HooplaImpro. Facebook: HooplaImpro. Website: Email:

Thursday, 21 May 2015

The Spirit of Improv

Blog by Steve Roe, co-founder of Hoopla Improv, courses, shows and improv club. Twitter: @HooplaImpro. Facebook: HooplaImpro. Website: Email: 

There are structural things to improv, the things that hold a show together and enable people to work together as a team, but underlying that is the spirit of improv. 

Here's what the spirit of improv means to me at the moment, written in no particular order as it comes to me:

An audience is watching, your friend walks on stage and does something, you have no idea what they are doing, you jump on and join them anyway. You've never done any acting or improv or anything like that before, you sign up to an impro workshop anyway, you feel terrified on the day but you walk into the room anyway and throw yourself into it. You go and watch a jam, they ask for people to sign up, you weren't going to but you sign up anyway, you end up performing with someone you've only just met on stage. You ask for a genre from the audience, they shout out "French new wave" or something, you have no idea what that it is but do it anyway. You're doing a show that seems bigger than you were expecting, you feel nervous back stage but run on stage anyway and throw caution to the wind. You're doing a show that seems smaller than you were expecting, you feel nervous back stage but run on stage anyway and throw caution to the wind. You have a choice between doing the show that you feel safe in and the show that you're not sure about but excites you, you do the latter show, or both. You do the shows and things you love. You see someone do an amazing scene and rather than feel jealous you walk up to them and tell them how much you loved it. You get a room with some people you've just met in a workshop and attempt to create something beautiful with them. You put on a show in a small room above a pub in your hometown to friends and family using games you've only read about in a book and play them your own way. You go to the South Bank and do something on the streets just because. You jump in with emotion or movement so you haven't got time to think. You make it your job to support everything that gets said right from the start. You bring biscuits to a room of improvisers that weren't expecting them. The audience gives a suggestion, nobody goes on stage, the lights shine brightly, you don't have any idea what to do, but go on stage anyway. You feel so connected to your team that it's like time slows down. You're not sure what you're doing, you're going through an improv slump, you turn up anyway and get on stage and have fun anyway. You're back stage and one of your cast looks nervous, you give them a hug and make them smile. You're in story, someone says something that you don't understand, you back them up and support the hell out of everything.

Blog by Steve Roe, co-founder of Hoopla Improv, courses, shows and improv club. Twitter: @HooplaImpro. Facebook: HooplaImpro. Website: Email:

Thursday, 14 May 2015

List of drop in workshops and other places to practice improv regularly.

Blog by Steve Roe, co-founder of Hoopla Improv, courses, shows and improv club. Twitter: @HooplaImpro. Facebook: HooplaImpro. Website: Email: 

I get asked pretty often about drop-in workshops and other places to practice improv regularly, so I thought I'd put our recommendations together into a blog. If you can't commit to a longer course, the classic drop-in workshop is a good flexible alternative.

These tend to be for people who have already done some improv but want to practice on a flexible basis. 

Here our recommendations, totally biased with our first two choices obviously!

Hoopla Things

Hoopla Mondays: These are the closest we have to a drop-in, it usually books up about a week in advance. Different theme each Monday, 7pm at Theatre Delicatessen in Farringdon. Tends to people with a bit of experience, who've just started impro the last year or so and want to get some practice in.

Hoopla Saturdays: Similar to our Monday workshops but lasting the whole day. Also usually books up about a week in advance, gets all levels of experience coming along.

Other Ones we Recommend

The Maydays: They do a weekly Thursday drop-in in Brighton (where I first learnt impro) and also a weekly Saturday in London which I've also heard is excellent. 

The Nursery: Lots of regular workshops including drop ins.

Shoot from The Hip: Run a weekly impro drop in, they are an excellent show so great to learn from.

Do Not Adjust Your Stage: They've also started running a regular drop-in workshop, also great performers so good people to practice with. 

C3Something: They are running loads of workshops now including regular drop-ins and also international guests.

The Actors' Centre: They run some great impro sessions that are usually bookable on the day.

We Want Information: weekly impro drop in.

The Cockpit Theatre: They run Meisner Technique drop-ins.

The Actor's Temple: Also run Meisner Technique drop-ins. 

Foreign Affairs: Also run Meisner Technique drop-ins.

Duck Duck Goose: A show/jam rather than a workshop but is becoming one of the most popular places is London for new improvisers to build up experience.

The Crunchy Frog Collective: Nice website that lists loads of improv happening around the UK.

There are loads of other improv courses and classes in London but I think that's the main drop-in style ones around at the moment, let me know if I've missed anything please I'll be happy to add them on. 

Blog by Steve Roe, co-founder of Hoopla Improv, courses, shows and improv club. Twitter: @HooplaImpro. Facebook: HooplaImpro. Website: Email: