Saturday, 30 September 2017

How to practice improv when not in rehearsal or show.

Today's shortish blog from an improviser:

"I'd LOVE to read about improv exercises/games/warm ups you can do on your own, without a partner or a team…"

My favourite one to do is from Meisner Technique training. The next time someone says to you "how are you?" in real life, no matter when or where, take a moment to think about it and then answer honestly. It practices emotional honesty in the present moment. Yes, some people will think you're odd, but you'll also be surprised at how quickly it also breaks barriers in a nice way.

Other things to practice on own when not in rehearsal:

- Every time you pick up an object in real life, immediately after pick up the mimed version of the object with the same movements and imagine the same weight. It helps to notice how actions work in real life so we can make our object work more believeable. Don't pick up real guns though, keep them mimed please.

- Send 5 improvisers a message about why you like watching them or improvising them. It keeps you in the mindset of supporting others rather than worrying about how you are doing.

- Start your day by writing 3 pages of freehand notes about anything, the first thing that comes to you, without worrying about it or editing it. Show nobody. This is called Morning Pages and is from the book The Artist's Way and is a good way of opening up ideas and coming into touch with your thoughts and feelings.

- Go for a run and eat healthily, it means you turn up to shows energised and happy rather than starting every warm up with "guys I'm really tired".

- In general conversations and meetings practice relaxed open body language, relieving tension from yourself which helps the other people to relieve tension.

- Give someone you don't know all that well a small present.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Anxiety about not being quick or funny enough when improvising.

A friend of mine is suffering anxiety about not being quick or funny enough when improvising.

This can be a vicious cycle for performers that gets worse and worse, until they end up doing less and less shows or quitting improv all together. 

What doesn't help in this situation is "trying". Trying to be quick or funny can often lead to the opposite happening. When we are trying too hard to be funny no idea seems good enough, as we are measuring ourselves against an impossible benchmark, and before we know it out internal editor blocks all of these ideas which again results in perceived "slowness" and being unfunny. Then the cycle continues, and we again go on stage with the delusion that we are not quick or funny and again try too hard and reject all of our ideas resulting in feeling stuck and stale. 

So we need to snap out of this cycle. 

The best way to do this is counter intuitive, and it is weirdly to not try to be funny or quick and instead just be average, normal and even slow. 

When we give ourselves permission to be average we can relax and actually react like normal humans in the situation, instead of trying to speed write in our minds at the expense of emotions. 

When we give ourselves permission to be average we release what is uniquely us, instead of trying too hard to become an external image of what we regard as 'good' or 'creative'.
The only you is you. And the average you is interesting to others, as they are not you but like to see your own take on the world. 

The purpose of many improv exercises is to allow you to be your full self on stage without apology, rather than doing an impression of other performers or striving for external perfection. 

The aim is still to put on an awesome exciting show for the audience. But it is real humans on stage without fear that gives people this. And it is the Jedi mind trick of "being average" that helps performers to get out of the anxiety loop and live without fear on stage. 

These views originally come from Keith Johnstone, Viola Spolin and places like io theatre and we now teach exercises to help with this on our courses in London with Hoopla Impro, and we're going to be posting loads more resources about things that help actors improvise without fear on our facebook page Hoopla Impro. If you can't make a course, no problem, we're still happy to help improvisers any way we can so please get in touch.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Why is the Hoopla Improv Marathon the same week as Slapdash Improv Festival?

Why is the Hoopla Improv Marathon the same week as Slapdash Improv Festival?

Someone just asked, as they were concerned we had deliberately put it on at the same time as an act of competition which goes against the lovely relationship Hoopla and The Nursery have. I was originally just going to chat to them but in case anybody else was concerned here's the story.

Why is the Hoopla Improv Marathon the same week as Slapdash Improv Festival?

The short answer is due to a mistake in choosing dates, by me, that was too late to go back on. 

This August we were booking in all of our Autumn shows when we had the idea of running a Del Close style improv marathon. We then floated the idea to The Miller where we host our shows, and their manager and owner were surprisingly up for it. They then looked into licensing laws with the council and were able to get 20th - 22nd October approved for late opening on that weekend early. 

At the time I thought Slapdash was in Spring for some reason, maybe it had been Spring once before I'm not sure, but I honestly didn't realise that it was the same week. We knew we weren't clashing with The Nursery re-opening but didn't think to check about Slapdash as I really thought it was months away. 

The first we realised about it was later when I bumped into Jules at The Nursery and we realised the dates were the same. By that point though the late opening had been approved by the council, The Miller were already committed and had already arranged late night through the night bar staff and security.

So it was too late to change, which I am sorry about as we should have changed. 

However running up to the week we will also be promoting Slapdash, as we have done every year, and the aim of our event is not to undercut the other in anyway. 

In fact during our Marathon weekend the main shows (8pm - 10pm) are the same as they would have been otherwise, so no change there, the only change is that we're also running shows much later for that weekend only. 

Also the capacity of our venue is only 75 afterall so we're not talking about a huge amount of people, and in other years both Hoopla and Nursery/Slapdash have been full on the same night no problem.

We have a lovely history with The Nursery. Many of our teachers also teach with The Nursery, all of our performers and groups also perform there and a huge amount of our courses are based there, so we don't want to do anything to upset this relationship.

Over the years we've always tried to avoid clashing with other improv companies over major events where possible, but I made a mistake this time.

Hoopla has a big team of teachers and performers, but in terms of the actual show bookings and coordinating dates this is just me and Angela part-time, so we do have to work quickly and make quick decisions as we just don't have the manpower currently to do anything else, so this time we missed the dates. 

We're trying to put on as many improv shows as possible for as many improv groups as possible. Last week alone we hosted around 20 groups I think. To manage that amount of people and groups week in week out ongoing is really hard work, and I'm afraid we do make mistakes sometimes. 

So I'm sorry if the clash of dates was seen as unnecessary conflict  but as you can hopefully see this really wasn't my intention and I do genuinely try to work with companies as much as possible rather than clash.