Monday, 23 April 2018

Hoopla Teacher Susan Harrison shares her improv story.

What got you into improv in the first place?
I originally trained as an Actor and the improvisation part of our training was the best 10 weeks of my three years at Drama School. Maybe not for everyone in the year, but certainly for me! So I'd always loved improvising but had no idea that the Improv scene existed or that Improv was an art form in its own right. Some time after leaving drama school I was doing a course in "Improvisation for the Solo performer" run by Improv hip hop legend Rob Broderick. At that time I was doing it to help me improve my audience interaction, for the purposes of doing character comedy at stand up nights. But while doing that course, Rob recommended Monkeytoast Improv classes, all of which I took and I've been obsessed ever since. I was thrilled to accidentally discover that there was a thriving improv scene right here in the UK, under my nose and that there was so much variety within it.

What makes a good improviser?
Someone who listens and is interested in other people. It's not about being the quickest, the loudest or the funniest. Kind people make good improvisers. Dickheads need not apply! Great improvisers tend to be open, playful, responsive and un-controlling.

What’s your favourite exercise and why?
I'm a fan of the game "I'm a Whisk" because it's a lighthearted, low pressure way of freeing up the locks on your brain. It encourages you to support each other, to make offers and also to make connections and associations but not in intellectual, stressful way. Also it's funny.

Who are your favourite improv acts?
There are so many brilliant players that I enjoy watching. Specific Individuals like Alex Fradera, Amy Cooke-Hodgson, Heather Urquhart (to name but a few) are all rather dreamy to watch and play with! In terms of improv Acts, again there are loads, but I particularly enjoy Breaking and Entering, The RH Experience and Abandoman. Oh and can I say The Pioneers?! They're a team I coach so I am 100% biased...but they are genuinely excellent. They support each other so well and continue to make me laugh no matter how often I watch them. As for international groups I really rate TJ and Dave, The Sufferettes and Parallelogramophonograph, all of whom have their own unique style and improv "voice". Also, when I was in Canada with Showstoppers this year I had the pleasure of watching Adam and Rob (Adam Cawley and Rob Norman) who are another great improv duo. Their character work is committed and fun, they embody the space really well and the night I saw them they improvised such a joyful plot twist that the audience audibly gasped! It's great to see acts from outside the UK, otherwise you can get too stuck in the idea that there's only one way of doing things.

What does improv training help you with in the real world?
Everything! It helps you to listen, to connect with people and to know how to be chatty when it seems as if all chat has gone. It helps you to relax, to take a break from the stresses of life, to have fun, to worry less about yourself and to care about other people, even if, at first, that's only for the duration of a scene.

What advice would you give to people wanting to get into improv?
Do it! Book a course and see what happens. You do not have to be clever or funny. I repeat, you do not have to be clever or funny. Give it a go! You won't regret it.



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Susan teaches the Beginners and Performance courses as well as Character workshops. www.hooplaimpro.com

If you would like to see her perform check out Showstopper! The Improvised Musical, BEINGS, The Actor's Nightmare and her solo show Susan Harrison Is A Bit Weepy







Sunday, 22 April 2018

Meet Hoopla Teacher Katy Schutte.



Katy's favourite improv quote: 
"If we treat each other as if we are geniuses, poets, and artists, we have a better chance of becoming that on-stage." - Del Close 


What got you into improv in the first place? 

I didn't realise till years later that I'd done loads of improv at school in my drama class. I imagine it was that. That certainly made me choose Drama as my degree later on. I also found a drop-in class in Brighton years ago that was likely the catalyst to get me doing it all the time. Training at Second City Chicago and watching shows at IO made me get into longform and Baby Wants Candy were my favourites from the first time I saw them in 1999!

What makes a good improviser? 

Someone that is prepared to listen and support other people on stage to make collaborative art. Someone that is happy to put the truth out there and commit to an idea no matter how good or bad their inner critic tells them it is.

What’s your favourite exercise and why?

I still love Mind Meld it's a lovely intellectual way of getting to know how other performers are thinking and arriving at a shared vision.

•Who are your favourite improv acts? 

TJ and Dave, Dasariski and the first generation of Baby Wants Candy!

What does improv training help you with in the real world? 

Being okay with failing in order to get to a better creative and communicative level with other people.

What advice would you give to people wanting to get into improv?

Try it, it's not as scary as you imagine and you will make a lot of new, lovely friends.

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Katy regularly teaches at Hoopla courses include; Beginners, Performers, Long Form and The Improvisers Way. www.hooplaimpro.com

If you would like to see her perform she is part of improv troupe Project2 and The Maydays

And she has also written an improv book called 'The Improvisers Way' which is available to buy from https://www.nickhernbooks.co.uk/the-improvisers-way




Saturday, 21 April 2018

How Hoopla Teacher Liam Brennan got into the world of Improv.

Hi Liam how did you get into improv?

I first started doing improv while studying Drama at the University of Kent, joining a short-form group called 'Play it by Ear'. I had such an amazing time with the group but it's not like I was super into improv or anything. I was more into the wider world of comedy and appreciated the stage time I was getting as well as the fun I'd have in rehearsals with my buddies.

During the third year of my course, there was a module that allowed students to use their own performance practice as a research subject. The prospect of putting study time and University resources towards something that we were really developing a passion for felt perfect so we signed up as a group. We had started getting really passionate about seemed like an amazing opportunity. Time that we would normally spend in lectures on subjects we were mildly interested in could now be spent attending improv classes and watching more experienced improv groups. When one of our members showed us a DVD of the Upright Citizen Brigade's 'ASSSSCAT' show, I was blown away. The UCB performers seemed so effortlessly funny while being amazing committed actors. I started reading everything improv related I could find in the uni library, practicing every opportunity I could and looking for performance opportunities outside of the comfortable bubble we had created for ourselves at the student run comedy club.

It seemed to happen overnight but I had become a fully fledged improv nerd.


What does improv training help you with in the real world?

I used to suffer from stage fright massively, I'd feel so nervous in front of large groups of people. Taking Drama in Secondary school really helped with this but starting improv took me to the next level. It was an amazing fun thing I did with my friends and once I started feeling comfortable and safe on stage, the confidence began showing in the real world too. Afterall, if I can get in front of an audience and do a forty minute comedy show in which we have no idea what's going to happen second to second and make it work, it does put any other social interactions into perspective.


What advice would you give to people wanting to get into improv?

You don't have to be funny, clever or quick to do improv. These can be strings in your bow but they're not all that important. If you can get into that mindset it takes the pressure off. I don't think many experienced improv groups go on stage and say to each other "Okay everyone, let's make sure we're super clever tonight! Do it quickly too! Oh, and don't forget to be funny". If they don't set those lofty heights, why should anyone else? One of the improvisers in my beginners class the other day started a scene with the line "I like books", it completely took the class by surprise and they laughed. The rest of the scene that followed was great and interestingly:

1. It didn't seem like the improvisers were trying to be funny, it really did just end up that way.

2. Even though the scene was about books, the improvisers didn't get lost in trying to show much they knew about literature, it ended up just being a fun context to play in.

3. The lines delivered were just responses to the previous line, there weren't quick quips and the scene remained at what you might consider a regular conversational speed.

The longer I do improv, the more I see that anyone can do it. You've just got to get out of your own way first.



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Liam teaches the Beginners courses at Hoopla and is part of improv troupes The Science of Living Things and Fright Club.  www.hooplaimpro.com

You can also follow his blog about improv at www.liambrennan.co.uk/blog/


Friday, 20 April 2018

Hoopla teacher Jinni Lyons talks about how to create a Solo Improv Show.


Jinni Lyons created her solo improv show, Jinni Lyons is an Only Child, in 2013, which she has toured nationally and internationally, including a headlining slot at the Women in Comedy Festival in Boston, USA.  I spoke to hear this week to find out what adivce she had for solo performers. 

Hi Jinni, I’ve seen your solo show so many times and always loved it! And wondered do you have any tips for improvisers wanting to create their own solo show? 

Jinni: Gosh, this is an oddly tricky question, but I will try to answer it:

1) Ask yourself why you want to do a solo improv show.  You need to know that there's a solid reason for doing it - whether it's because you think it looks like fun, because you want the challenge, because you have a great idea you want to try out...  Doing it because you feel like you should do one to tick that particular performance box won't support you as you develop the show.

2) Get an outside eye.  Even more so than when working in a group, you need someone to tell you how your show looks, what's working, what isn't, what needs to improve. It's hard to assess your own performance, and much easier to have someone else direct a rehearsal so you don't just eat biscuits and stare out of the window, telling yourself that you're 'thinking about it'... You don't necessarily need to ask a solo performer,
but do ask someone who improvises in a way that you like!

3) Use a notebook.  I don't have anyone to debrief with after shows, so I make notes the next day - what I did, what I liked, what I want to work on.  I also write down nice things that people said, to look at when I'm feeling insecure and wondering why the hell I'm putting myself through this!

4) If you're going to be playing multiple characters, you need to work on characters. All the time.  Work on how to create believable, individual characters that are obviously different from one another - whether vocally, physically, or emotionally.  Preferably all three.

5) On the other side of that coin, if you're going to be moving between multiple characters, you need to have a good 'neutral'.  Use that neutral to move between characters, so the audience just sees the characters, not you moving between them - if you're dashing from one end of the stage to the other, it'll look like one big mess, without clear distinctions.

6) Listen to yourself and keep it simple.  I don't need to say any more on that, because I'm keeping it simple!

7) Play! It's your show, and you can do what you goddamn like with it.  You can change it in rehearsal, just as you're about to go on, or even when you're on stage if you want to.  It's YOURS. Enjoy it, enjoy yourself.


Thanks Jinni, this is great!!  See you on the Hoopla stage again soon x 

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You can see Jinni in improv action in Jinni Lyons Is An Only Child, Bumper Blyton and hear on Destination podcast

She regularly teachers the Long-Form Improv Course at Hoopla. http://www.hooplaimpro.com/long-form-improv-course.html


Blog created by Angela, Hoopla Production Assistant. 

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Favourite Improv exercises from Hoopla teacher James Witt.


Hi James,  what are your favourite improv exercises? 

As a pre-show warm up is ‘Three Line Scenes' where you hammer home the names / descriptions of who you are, where you are and what you’re doing there.    This is good practice for when you’re inside the show when adrenaline often means these vital bits of information are missed.  The audience and other players need to know names and relationships or else you can end up with chaotic stories and confused audiences.

In rehearsal I love the group exercise of talking about an imagined holiday you shared together (as yourselves).  I feel this gets people working on details, and the intricacies of relationships without too much pressure but also builds a sense of camaraderie within the cast.   

In classes I like to do exercises that generate lots of content with little thinking time like 8 things, genre cauldron and what’s in the box.   I also like doing Dullprov, super simple scenes like flatmates talking about their favourite Netlix shows or greengrocers talking about the weights of veg, this helps flex the all important “being obvious” muscle that Keith Johnstone champions.   The audience often want us to make the most obvious choices to avoid us breaking their suspension of disbelief / jumping the shark. 


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You can catch James on the Hoopla stage in Newsical & Dreamweaver Quartet.  He teaches the Beginners and Paerformance courses at Hoopla.  www.hooplaimpro.com


Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Meet Hoopla Teacher Andrew Gentilli


Hi Andrew, what got you into improv in the first place?
I trained as an actor and always found the improvised scenes to be more alive, and improv exercises left more room for creative play and silliness - which is closer to my sensibilities. So once I finished the course I went hunting for improv meet-ups online and the breadcrumb trail led me to Hoopla.


What do you think makes a good improviser?
Someone who listens intently and is always ready to yield, but strong and committed when making offers. Above all, they make sure they're having fun - which is what it feels like when you're creatively free.

What’s your favourite exercise and why?
'You Look, You Seem'. It crystallises the notion that The Scene Is In The Eyes Of Your Partner. You are constantly making endowments based on close observation of your scene partner, they in turn run with your endowments to generate more content for you, do this for a few minutes then switch. It's very simple and very easy but becomes a two-person treadmill of incredible creativity and energy which seemingly takes off on its own. Afterwards, you're a bit 'what just happened?' while the class has just witnessed a wonderfully bizarre but emotionally truthful rollercoaster.


Who are your favourite improv acts?


What does improv training help you within the real world?
It builds muscles of trusting your intuition, confidence on the fly, and never getting too precious. It frees you from your own head!


What advice would you give to people wanting to get into improv?
Trust that intuition. Jump in. It taps into a deep need we have to live in the moment and create, free from judgement. I can't think of anyone who wouldn't massively benefit from improv.


Thanks Andrew!  See you at Hoopla @ The Miller soon :D 

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Andrew can be seen performing in Music Box & Beings. He teaches the Beginners and Performance courses at Hoopla.  www.hooplaimpro.com








Monday, 9 April 2018

Performing at Hoopla, list of opportunities


Blog by Steve Roe, co-founder of Hoopla Improv, courses, shows and improv club. Twitter: @HooplaImpro. Facebook Page: HooplaImpro. Facebook Group: Hoopla Impro People. Website: www.HooplaImpro.com. Email: hooplaimpro@gmail.com.

Our Regular Shows Day by Day

Mondays, 8pm - 10pm: Mix of things and end of course shows.
A mix of end of course shows from Hoopla courses and other regular nights from other groups which we're supporting.

Tuesdays, 8pm - 10pm: Mix of things and end of course shows.
A mix of end of course shows from Hoopla courses and other regular nights from other groups  which we're supporting.

Wednesdays, 7pm - 8pm: A weekly free open to all jam.
We've recently increased the length of this and are working with our jam captains and jammer to make it a great free place for everyone to come along and build up more performing experience. The jammers can also stay for the free shows from 8pm too. You don't have to sign up in advance, just turn up before 7pm.

Wednesdays 8pm - 10pm: Shows that help support and improve the diversity of the UK improv scene.

For instance Nu Z Land that celebratates black & asian comedians and improvisers, The Foreign Office that gets helps connect different nationalities together, Ladyprov and Word of Muff that puts on all female shows and The Committee that connect together the best of improv, sketch and stand up. We generally keep these shows free to help make improv available to everyone. Groups that develop at these nights we also invite into our main weekend shows as space opens up.

Wednesdays 10pm - 11pm: Late night experiments & jams.

We're experimenting with some late night shows at the moment with Project2 doing a weekly late night show this month. Later on we might also experiment with some late night jams on Wednesday nights if there is demand.

Thursdays, 7pm - 8pm: Launch Pad.
Starting later this summer. This is a free weekly spot for new groups, existing groups to try out new things, and for new groups to build up performing experience. It isn't marketed in the press so that it is more improvisers performing to improvisers in a safe supportive place.

Thursdays, 8pm - 10pm: Hoopla house shows.
This is where we're going to be putting on all the new shows we're producing as a weekly night, starting a bit from now and properly from later in the summer. There will be at least two groups performing each night, with a different line up each week. As these groups build up experience they will gradually move into our main slots on our weekend shows.

Fridays, 8pm - 10pm: The best improv possible.
At our main weekend shows 8pm - 10pm Friday and Saturday we're striving to put on the best improv possible for a mainstream crowd who want a great night out. We aim to put on a mix of different improv styles, short-form, long-form, narrative, musical and more are all welcome. Most of all shows should be entertaining and fun and suitable for our lovely weekend audience.

Saturdays, 6:15pm - 7:30pm: Pre-party. 

Similar to Launch Pad this is where we put on groups that are building up experience and developing their show. We're available to help groups and give feedback if requested, to help them develop shows. Shows that really take off here we gradually transfer over to our main nights as space arises.

Saturdays, 8pm - 10pm: The best improv possible.

At our main weekend shows 8pm - 10pm Friday and Saturday we're striving to put on the best improv possible for a mainstream crowd who want a great night out. We aim to put on a mix of different improv styles, short-form, long-form, narrative, musical and more are all welcome. Most of all shows should be entertaining and fun and suitable for our lovely weekend audience.

Sundays, all day: REST!
We don't currently do shows on Sundays as our venue is closed.

We do sometimes have to move weekly shows around a bit to make way for end of course shows when they come up. 

Progression for an improviser

Hoopla Courses

End of Course Shows

Jams (Wednesdays, 7pm)

Auditions for House Shows (at least once per season)

Performing House Shows (Thursdays, 8pm)

Performing at our Main Shows (Weekends)
 
Please note that performing at main shows depends on the suitability of the show and if space is available.

Progression for a new group

Launch Pad (Thursdays 7pm)

Pre-Party (Saturdays 6:15pm)

Performing at our Main Shows (Weekends 8pm)

We try to make space for everyone at our Launch Pads but if they are getting busy we have to give priority to people coming from Hoopla courses. Also we priority book groups over two-prov and solo improv so that more people can get involved.

Please note that performing at main shows depends on the suitability of the show and if space is available.

What we look for when booking our main shows, or progressing a group from Launch Pads/Pre-Party Shows to main shows

  1.     Puts on a fun & exciting show that is suitable for a mainstream weekend audience.
  2.     Puts on a show that is suitable for everyone, not just other improvisers (although it should be suitable for them too).
  3.     Brings in an audience (although we also will support great shows that don't have their own audience yet if they are a high standard). 
  4.     Able to help out with promoting of their show and Hoopla shows in general. 
  5.     Able to work as part of a team with our front of house staff, hosts, other groups and volunteers. 
  6.     Groups that are open to feedback from us, so we can help shape the show to make it suitable for bigger audiences.
  7.     Groups that are regularly rehearsing together and improving things step by step.
  8.     Groups that do the show they are booked in to do.
  9.     We're supportive of all improv styles, short-form, long-form, narrative, musical etc are all welcome. However styles that don't work so well in our venue are solo improv and slower or quieter two-prov. 
  10.     Other adhoc values we look out for include movement, playfulness, fun, colour, physical, story, adventure, character, action and spontaneity.
How our House Shows Work 
 


We're going to be putting on all styles of improv. If you don't make one audition don't worry we encourage you to try again and we have lots of other opportunities in the meantime.


New Auditions announced at least once per season.Over our twitter (@hooplaimpro) and facebook page (@hooplaimpro) and facebook group Hoopla Impro People.

Application over email.

Successful application.

Audition.
Audition format depends on show but will usually involve lots of scenes. You can also request feedback.

Successful audition.

Rehearsals

Currently every other week on Saturday afternoons, but this may change with new shows.

Series of Thursday Night Shows and additional Mini-Shows
 ↓
Ongoing Rehearsals

Performing at our Main Nights
Depending on the suitability of the show and availability at our main nights.

Festivals (TBC)


Some of the House Shows we put on will be for a limited run, and some we put together we'll aim to make an ongoing thing.  



Directors for our House Shows come from our teaching team, but we may expand this to include other Directors next year. 

Things we're trying to improve

Making improv available to everyone: By having a nice mix of free and paid shows, nights that improve diversity in the improv scene, and having jams and places that support new groups in addition to our main nights.

Putting on the best improv possible: For this we need groups that are open to feedback from us and are constantly trying to develop and rehearse shows to make improv awesome.

Putting on the right show to the right people: 
We aim to support all groups, but do that by putting them in the right place at the right time to the right audience.

Not cancelling or moving things: Before Angela joined our team I was really behind on things so ended up having to cancel or move things around a lot after booking. We're now planning ahead much better thanks to Angela, so we aim to not cancel or move things once booked. The only exceptions to this is if we have to make way for end of course shows or international guests, or if a group is no longer suitable for a certain night.

Front of house:
We now have a paid Front of House Manager (Helice Stratton) so that front of house and tech things are looked after each show.

How to apply to perform


Jams you don't have to apply you just turn up.
House Shows are a different process per show, see above.


For other shows please email hooplashows@gmail.com with the following:


  1.     What type of night your show would be suitable for.
  2.     Name of group.
  3.     Description of group (written from point of view of audience so it sells the show).
  4.     Cast list of who is in the group. 
  5.     How long the show is and alternative times it could do (we generally book in 10-15, 30 and 40 minute spots).
  6.     Any reviews or press you have about the show.
  7.     Any images you have for the show.
  8.     Any social media or web links you have for the show.

We do try really hard to fit everyone in but due to limited space and a large number of groups we can't guarantee a spot for everyone, and there may be a waiting list until we have a space.



Blog by Steve Roe, co-founder of Hoopla Improv, courses, shows and improv club. Twitter: @HooplaImpro. Facebook Page: HooplaImpro. Facebook Group: Hoopla Impro People. Website: www.HooplaImpro.com. Email: hooplaimpro@gmail.com. 

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Interview with Hoopla teacher Chris Mead


Had a catch up with Chris to find out about the course he created 'Improvised Theatre with Chris Mead' and what else he has been up to recently. 


Hi Chris, can you tell us what is the Improvised Theatre course? 

The improvised theatre course is for improvisers who have gone through all the improv basics and are asking themselves “what next”? Personally, I love improv which is joyful, emotionally-connected, grounded and playful - so that’s the style I’m teaching in this course. It’s nearer to theatre than sketch and although it’s always very funny, it deals with a broader scope of emotions.


What will students be learning over the 8 weeks?

We get through a lot. Group mind, trust, emotional vulnerability, playing from a place of positivity, drawing from your own life to create characters, how to find the story in your relationship, theatricality, slow-burn comedy, intimacy, silence, listening, snack foods…


What improv projects/shows are you currently working on? 

We’re in the process of retooling Project2, my science fiction group, for a couple of really exciting projects (including a run of WEEKLY late shows at Hoopla!). I’m also enjoying visiting international festivals to teach and perform with the Maydays. On top of that, I’m administrating the Originals series for The Nursery Theatre, rehearsing for a new Harry Potter improv show and directing a show with my improv theatre company, Unmade. We’re premiering that in Sweden at the end of March and then we’re performing it for a limited run at The Nursery. I’m also doing a lot of behind the scenes work to get my podcast, YesBot, back up and running. Also sleep and eating.

Thanks Chris, have fun in Sweden!!  

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Next Improvised Theatre with Chris Mead course starts in April - www.hooplaimpro.com/improvised-theatre

Project2 Lates starting Wednesday 4th April - facebook.com/events/355488338263286/



Blogpost created by Angela

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

I find this game hard!

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

A couple of times this season people have said to me that they find a game hard. 

My first impulse was to try to make it less hard for them, or give them something else. But actually my new response is just "yes, it's hard".

The game where this is most likely to happen is a gibberish scene where you can only talk in gibberish and not in English. Or the 1-21 game where the only dialogue allowed is the numbers 1-21 in order.

Why are they hard? 

Because they both remove speech, which might have been propping the improviser up in their scenes previously. 

At first with speech removed they feel like they can't do anything in the scene. It feels hard because they feel stuck and don't know what to do.

But that's the whole point. The game makes that part of their improv (speech) temporarily unavailable, so they have to discover something else instead. Eventually with practice they discover the full range of emotions and physicality and movement they can do on stage. 

Eventually the intellectual side that so desperately needs language to control the situation just gives up and the rawer emotions and physicality take over and the person becomes even more expressive than ever. 

I remember when John Cremer first did the 1-21 game on me and I felt infuriated and embarrassed about my lack of ability to physically express anything. But as I played the game I realised I was hiding the embarrassment inside, but it was more fun to just let it out and be in the scene. 

The "me" in the gibberish scene eventually felt different from the "me" that used to be in scenes more. It was more instinctual, more emotional, and eventually became more fun. 

Eventually by limiting language in games we allow real emotions to show themselves in the body instead. Eventually. 

They might look like simple games, but there's actually a big change going on. If someone is not used to honestly expressing themselves fully emotionally and physically in the present moment this is a big step to discover, and it can feel overwhelming to suddenly have very real emotions swamp you on stage. They can feel like tigers that we want to keep locked up in a cage of "professional work face" but actually on stage these tigers can come out and play. You are allowed to laugh and cry in improv.

So don't feel bad if you find what looks a simple game hard. There's a lot more going on than meets the eye. 

And if you find a game hard then keep doing it, it's there to show you something and it will click after a while. And the harder you are finding it often the more you need that game.


A lot of learning drama through games comes from Viola Spolin, who believed any part of acting can be taught through playing games where the learning point of the game was buried into the successful play of the game itself. 


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

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. www.hooplaimpro.com 

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. www.hooplaimpro.com