Saturday, 22 December 2012

Clown, Conceptualiser or Adaptive: Our Habits and Fears

By Katy Schutte
I know it isn’t always realistic to pigeonhole improvisers into one bracket or another, but in planning a rehearsal for the Maydays I realised that there are things that we get into the habit of practising and avoiding depending on our innate style and on what the groups we play with NEED.

I read something interesting in a book called Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps.  It points out that in a romantic relationship, we sometimes work like a two-person ant-colony; if one of us can do one job, then there is no point in the other taking up brain space to do it too.  One of us learns everyone’s names at a party so the other one doesn’t bother, one knows how to make the surround sound work so the other one doesn’t bother.  We have one double-sized brain between us.  In an improv troupe, there is something similar.  After years of playing with the same people, we can end up having a specific role in our company shows and rehearsals.  The positive aspect of this is group mind.  The downside is habit and stagnation.

Without really thinking about it, I know that within the Maydays, we have improvisers who are stand-out aces at character, singing, rap, game of the scene, follow-me initiations, object work, clowning, emotion, lateral thinking, topics, support and of course cock jokes.  Because individuals are so good at their particular forte, sometimes it is easy just to leave it to them.  The only reason we don’t leave it to them the whole time is because we generally have a cast of 4-5 per show and our company has 12 improvisers.  Each show has a different vibe and we find that there are golden combinations.  An argument for getting good at all the stuff you normally avoid is so that when you’re in a show where everyone you’re on stage with is character-driven, you can be the one remembering names at parties or sorting the surround sound. 

I guess what I’m saying is; to be the best improvisers we can be, and to be able to play excellently with improvisers we’ve hardly even met, we have to have the whole set.  If you don’t practice all your improv keepy-uppy, you won’t be good enough at it when the nerves kick in, when you’re under the weather or tired, or when your mind goes blank. 

What type of improviser am I (or what role do I play in my company)?

The Clown

Clowns love to come on stage with a strong character or emotion.  They sometimes pull their character idea off the call-out/scene before and sometimes just pick an arbitrary emotion, choose to lead with a certain body part (stacking), or alter their face or voice.  They love to sing or rap - and find it easy - because it is a way of channelling their emotions.
Clowns avoid driving the plot of a show or the journey of a scene and they don’t like to be the initiator.  Their reasoning is often that they aren’t ‘clever’ like that or that they can’t think of anything in time.  If they do initiate, it is often just an initiation for themselves.  They don’t want to be in charge of the other improviser and their journey through the scene.
Bad clowns are particularly scared of initiating and just wait for their scene partner to do the work, partly out of misplaced politeness.  The other type of bad clown is someone that will just cock-about until they get a laugh.  It’s often funny, but can end the scene abruptly and make the show pretty shallow.  Bad clowns can also get stuck in stereotypes or in their regular go-to characters. 
Good clowns really listen to the show as a whole and allow their rich characters to embody the themes and feelings tackled.  They can change the rhythm of a show and take the audience into deeper states of emotion.  Good clowns often get the audience feedback ‘wow, you were just like this person I know’.

The Conceptualiser

Conceptualisers love to initiate and drive scenes and help tell the story of a show.  They love to talk.  They’re very good at conversational topics, verbal games of the scene and reincorporation.  They always remember names at parties.
Conceptualisers avoid playing big characters or characters that are wholly different to themselves.  They also don’t tend to go for full-on emotional responses or very physical scenes.  Their songs will be all about the lyrics, less about the melody.
Bad conceptualisers tend to talk about action or plot instead of showing it to us.  They get cross when the scene or show isn’t panning out how they thought.  They fight against ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ moves by other improvisers (which are actually just different than theirs).  They sometimes announce out loud what will decidedly happen in the next scene in order to control the show.
Good conceptualisers are ready to drop their heavy concepts at a moment’s notice.  They also let the show as a whole be determined by the group and not by them as an individual.  They are great lateral thinkers and inspire originality.

The Adaptive

Adaptives love to help their scene partner.  They see what’s happening in a scene and do whatever is needed.  They are just as happy playing strong characters as they are initiating a verbal follow-me scene.  They will initiate just as much as not.
Adaptives avoid freedom.  On paper they are the perfect improviser, doing whatever is needed.  And though you’ll get a good solid show every time from an Adaptive, it won’t be a life-changer.  Adaptives avoid just fucking around.  They want to know what is needed and how they should do it.  They don’t take enough risks or really surprise themselves.
Bad Adaptives do too much.  They see a fun scene going on and they want to get in there, as a walk-on, as a scene-paint, as another character.  Sometimes scenes need it of course, but bad Adaptives overdo it.  It’s not a lack of trust, they just want to play.
Good Adaptives are just as happy ending up as the lead as they are being one of the chorus line.  They see what the show needs and they do it.

No one type is better than another.

We talked about whether it was a good idea to have a balance of these types cast in our shows, but were more excited by the idea that we could all be freed up to serve the show.  

How Can I Work On This?

Well, that's a whole other blog for the future, but here's a taster: I gave the Maydays piles of post-it notes for each type to draw from.  Each had a mission on it, based on what their type avoids doing.  They used these as the inspiration for a set of scenes.  We did a few sets with everyone working against their fears and into the skills of other types before looking at how that worked out or didn't work out.

We learned that when Clowns initiate a game, when Conceptualisers do a silly voice and when Adaptives fuck around: magic happens.  

Thursday, 20 December 2012

The 50-Hour London Improvathon

“Absolutely incredible”

The legendary London Improvathon returns for its sixth year. The finest improvisers from all over the world will meet in the 'Roaring Twenties' for an epic comic odyssey of romance, mystery and adventure.

Performed as a soap-opera in 25 episodes back to back over the weekend, the mix of brilliant comic brains and no sleep results in a wild, uncensored and euphoric playing style that you will not see anywhere else. With a recap at the beginning of each episode, you can drop in for a couple of hours or stay the whole weekend!

This year, as well as the usual cast of amazing improvisers, the cast will also include London Improv regulars Chris Mead, Jonathan Monkhouse and Maria Peters. 'Tis a joy, indeed.

"It's like nothing you've ever seen before"

WHEN: 7pm, Friday 11th January - 9pm, Sunday 13th January
COST: £10 per episode, £45 earlybird season pass. Tickets here
WHERE: Hoxton Hall, 130 Hoxton High Street, London, N1 6SH

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Monday, 17 December 2012

Glitch & ProjectTwo at The Old Red Lion

Using suggestions from the audience and active imaginations a team of seven improvisers/puppeteers weave an adventurous tale with a furry little cast puppets. Using a traditional Japanese “Bunraku” puppetry mix with a more modern Muppet-style, Glitch is a visual treat with fun characters all tied together with an entirely made up story.

Don’t be fooled but the cute puppets, this is not a show for kids!

In double-bill-land, Glitch will be joined by improvised Science-Fiction from ProjectTwo.

The ProjectTwo facility floats in orbit around Solaris, collecting every detail of every sentient life through voluntary data submitted to social network websites. With such data, the ProjectTwo engineers can access any real-life story since the facility's inception in 2017.

Welcome space-traveler. Which archive do you wish to view?

Improvised science-fiction which may or may not contain robots*, featuring:
Katy Schutte (★★★★ - Chortle, The Maydays, Fluxx, Baby Wants Candy)
Jonathan Monkhouse (Music Box: The Improvised Musical, London Improv)

WHEN: 7.30pm, Saturday 22nd December
COST: £8, tickets here.
WHERE: Old Red Lion Theatre, 418 St John Street, London, EC1V 4NJ. 


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Thursday, 6 December 2012

1st Annual Chris Werren Memorial Gig

A few months ago, brilliant improviser and our friend Chris "Chrus" Werren passed away, following a fist-fight with pink-cancer-robots. Chrus was a truly lovely man who delighted us with oddness, fascination with the natural world, and generosity of spirit. To celebrate the loveable chap will be a night of improv - his second love - featuring lots of groups and improvisers that he performed with over the years.

Acts include Hoopla's Old School Cast, a reunion of Cannonball Impro, and Grand Theft Impro with additional surprises, a raffle and CAKE!

Yes, cake.

Tickets are £5 and all the proceeds will go to St. Christopher's, the hospice that did such an amazing job of caring for him in his final months and days.

You can guarantee tickets in advance by clicking on this handy link - or you can buy a ticket at the door on the night.

WHEN: 7.30pm, Wednesday 12th December
COST: £5, tickets here or on the night
WHERE: The Miller, 96 Snowsfields Road, London, SE1 3SS

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Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Austentatious at Leicester Square Theatre

A Christmas tale of fun and good cheer - how delightful! 
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One of the most impressive comedy shows on the fringe - chortle
Super smart & terrifically funny - the scotsman

~The Milk Monitors presents~

Austentatious: An Improvised Novel

Dear reader, we are back for a very special Christmas tale, do join us for a wintery improvised romp!
~ Please do join us on ~
9th December at 7:30pm
Last month was a veritable Autumnal feast of conkers, embarrassing parents and the privacy limitations of a good nook. But as the nights draw in, and the goose grows a little more round, we invite you to join us for a ChristmasAusten tale! 

Do join us for warm Winter fun with mince piesChristmas carols and plenty of good cheer. We do encourage you to book in advance, like Lydia Bennett, we are rather popular with the Regiment and our dance card can get very busy indeed. Always room for a Captain of course!

And you can also find us twice a month at The Wheatsheaf.
Book tickets  »
"Witty, silly and gloriously funny"
Austentatious fight!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

FutureShock at The Camden People's Theatre


A centrepiece event of the CPT Futureshock festival, this one-off night of works-in-progress, cabaret acts and installations will be a carnival of the futuristic!
The evening's mouth-watering roster of acts includes: Foster's Comedy God and creator of Sprint 2012 smash Incontinental, Kazuko Hohki; the terrific Dumbshow Theatre; The Conker Group, whose show Underhero was a CPT hit at the Camden Fringe; sci-fi improvisers Project Two; and many more.
The evening will culminate in a party at the end of the world, with music, entertainment and drinks of a futuristic flavour.
The Futureshock festival is generously supported by the Royal Victoria Hall Foundation.

WHEN: 7:30pm, Saturday 8th December

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