Showing posts with label improvisation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label improvisation. Show all posts

Sunday 11 December 2022

Improv Jam in Kent!

 Great news!


There will be an improv jam in Margate, Kent (UK) in 2023. I am hoping to manage a monthly improv jam bring in guest performers from around Kent (or further).

Come see the sea, and do or watch improv. We will be venturing the stairs of Sundowners for their stage! It is a great space (but not wheelchair accessible, sorry!).  


We will have opportunities for lots of improv - sometimes, even longform sets with one another. However, we will start our evenings with games and frolicking. Much splendour will be had with scenes and more.  

Dates are TBC, as of December 2022.

Friday 26 June 2020

The Camera: Film Acting and Improv (Online Class)


With improv going online, what do improvisers need to know? They are no longer creating theatre, but films. These will be a style or genre of films in themselves. Exactly what it entails is up to the creator(s). Nonetheless, learning from films to improve our improv online is valuable. In this series of classes, I begin with a focus on the camera. I shall mention other areas (some of which will have their own focused class).

Book and click!

What the audience sees has always been important in our improv, and now it is even more! I will guide participants through the various thoughts on using the camera to deliver the content desired. We discuss the current availability to achieve these goals, but we will use a lot of practical trialling. This class (and the series) will enrich your improv online through increasing your understanding of the form of media and performance. There is a wealth of useful and usable knowledge that has been integrated into the class that can deepen your expression and artistry for the effect you are looking for.

These classes can be taken as one-off lessons about the area of film acting and improv; however, attending all of them will only increase your abilities. It is recommended to take this class before others, but this is not required.

Nathan Keates (Nathan Improv) is a trainer, improvisation teacher and a performing arts teacher; that is only a distinction on subject. He trained in film acting in 2005 - 2008. Nowadays, Keates is a theatre-maker, improviser and clown. He is so addicted to improv, impro, improvisation that he researches it too. The current project is on autism and improv comedy. Nathan began teaching improvisation in 2006 and quickly got teaching in another country, the States. In 2007, he found a love for applied improvisation for autistic people as it sprung to reality there and then. He was teaching autistic people, and people with other diagnoses too, in America. The progression has remained seeking the new and the wonderful in his practice and his teaching.
Be kind, be honest and be taking my class!

Click and book now!

Many thanks.
#findthefunnytogether
www.NathanImprov.com

PLEASE NOTE: this is an online class and will use breakout rooms; there will be technical issues to overcome, but we will manage all issues together and swiftly.

If you cannot afford the class, as long as I have Gold Standard bookings I can let you participate without cost. Please get in touch: info@nathanimprov.com.

Saturday 23 March 2019

5 ways to be a better actor or performer

In this blog, I will discuss the uses of five ways to be a better actor or performer. These come from my experiences and desires for and within improv. I warn you, there is a mini blog in this on clown... just so you know, as most other points are brief and concisely given. However, I like clown quite a lot. To be an actor or performer comes with assumptions and the main one is that improv uses them. This is to be pointed out, as a lot of people that get into it are not actors or performers, they are computer software engineers and veterinarians (etc.). Performing comes after and with a lot more value added into one's life too. So, here is how to become a better actor.

1. Take classes, any classes helps but acting classes works for this blog
Through taking further training outside of improv, you can gain skills in physical representation of the character, vocal training to produce increased control, sound quality and accuracy to the needs of them. The training can provide experiences in the differing rhythms, cadences and timing of a character. Whether this is RADA providing you with professional skills that will enrich your creative journey, or LIPA with their psychological and physical processes of acting. There are many well-established and famed school for actors to professionally develop. In this case, all that improvisers may desire is the exploration and not a full three year course. What aspect of acting training will best suit your current needs? Perhaps a bit of Meisner, a bit of Meisner, ...or maybe you wish to listen to Mamet’s acting approach. In any case, it is wise to find your route through the treacherous path.
I will advocate various paths in this blog, and the first (and largest section of the blog) is clown. Do clown. Not circus clown, but theatre clown… Whether it is a Lecoq-based class or a Mario Gonzales class, try it out. There are many styles to all art forms and clown is included. It could be that you wish to do the six masks of yourself with Sue Morrison, which has your personal mythology define your clown. By doing this you adopt the Native American and European style based on Richard Pochinko’s work. However, it could be that you instead wish to try renowned french teacher Phillipe Gaulier and his approach of childish pleasure and play to respectfully avoid the (Mr.) Flop. There are various types of clown teachers too. It is possibly a good idea to find out how the teacher works, if such information is available. The stereotype of a clown teacher is that they are brutal. However, this is not always the case. Dependent on their approach to being the clown (that is you) and how they go about teaching will result in vastly different results in the performer’s take-home discoveries. Whether that is ‘aren’t we all really stupid in the world’ or ‘connecting to one’s naivety helps personal growth’, we can celebrate all impacts that it has for individuals.
I teach clown. I teach it for its own sake and for improvisers. It works well for self-discoveries that support the basis of how people develop within their work. It translates into important stylistic methods in improv. This includes those that focus on Game of the Scene to those that enjoy thriving in short-form games. Clown centres around playfulness through listening, so the value strives from inputting this into your performances. It is good for life too, as we get to acknowledge when we are stupid and connect with others. When I first performed with Denni Dennis’ Company Clowns in Cardiff, it was an experiment - that was the performance - and was entitled, ‘Connections’. Clown is based on making those connections with each other and especially the audience.
A closely linked lesson to get involved in is tumbling. I recall Keith Johnstone stating to go take a tumbling class in 2009 to the whole room. Physicality can bring so much to the production that you improvise. The skill that is attained can bring a professional air to the work that you do. To bring an ability to be so vastly physical can open the windows of prospects to the comedic theatre that you create in your ensemble. Imagine being able to improvise something so beautiful (and funny) like it is directly from Gecko Theatre’s The Wedding. Having only personally taken a little bit of this, I still await the day when I can do a triple backwards somersault in some devastatingly exciting spontaneous car chase, as the vehicle caterpaults over a cliff and into the depths of the deep, clashing sea. One day.
Even non-acting classes help. Deepen your knowledge-breadth and it will bring more insight into the philosophical underpinning of the work: more understanding. I am not overly keen on clever d*cks prancing around spouting all they know; however, specific knowledge at points in a production that seems to have a use to the whole theatre show in-creation can be awe-inspiring. Any adult-ed class will enrich what you do, even if not directly the information gained.

2. Western vs. Eastern acting
A valid point about acting is that there are many approaches, and, furthermore, these are entrenched in the culture that surrounds it. Therefore, the western style of acting, albeit developing over the years, still has more of a psychological system than the eastern. Admittedly, this is a generalisation and it does not fit every practitioner and teacher. A good example is Tadeusz Kantor who treated theatre like visual art (to an extent). The meaning behind the theatre was tremendous and dealt with psychology of humans: our memory is forever dying. We only remember the last time we remembered that memory. Gloriously true from my experience. In any case, we can opt to discover what the opposing ‘broadly-speaking’ system can offer. If we were to act and perform from embodying a physical form first, then the results could present the inner workings of the character from an external-inwards approach. This is in comparison to the inner-outwards approach that configures how the character functions and brings about their physical form of being thereafter.
Eastern acting tradition comes from the combined duality of mind/body. This tradition stems from the thought that all performance comes from spirituality. It is about non-attachment and being ego-less (Forsythe, 1996). This approach has more focus on acting through movements, such as the Noh kata (movement patterns; Thorpe, 2014). Therefore, the system that an actor can work within is vastly different to the one’s that (perhaps) we are used to already.
By all means, this does link to the first suggestion of taking an acting class, but, more than that, explore where you come from as an actor. In the next few years, it is plausible to explore the eastern philosophy in your acting life (in which, I do mean your improv).

3. Study people; be interested in how people are
I have found that most actors have a common fascination: people. Actors like to watch others. On the tube, these types of people will be observing how people are within their bubble of existence, or even those doing the same thing and they briefly lock eyes with you (it has happened). So, study people. Personally, it is more of a natural tendency than a skill that I chose to engage in, as I probably could not act out how family and friends behave. However, I have brought observed behaviours and subconsciously embodied traits of many people I have met onstage. I do accidentally use other’s characteristics in my daily life, anyway. Through increasing your interest in other people, you can engage in these qualities in many ways for the spontaneous creation in the productions you improvise.
It could be suggested that more importantly you should study yourself. Be interested in how you are. This skill is very useful in improv. All the reasons to explore how other people present themselves are reasons that you should notice how you are too. What do you do? How are you in certain and various situations. By paying attention to whatever aspect that you so desire, you will conclude (to a level of accuracy) performable aspects of yourself. Furthermore, by being able to do so in the moment, you can begin using the skill onstage. The latter is probably more greatly useful than the first.

4. Be entrenched in the character
You are an actor. You are onstage. You (hopefully) have an audience, unless you chose not to for that huge artistic reason. This means that they see what you are doing, saying, being and, as a theatre production, it holds meaning to the overall piece you perform. What you bring to a scene, firstly, is a character. For that character to exist, you must be within it completely. There is no longer the actor acting, but the character being. This implies an acting approach, to some extent. However, even if those not willing wished to explore this, it translates: commit one hundred percent, be fully invested in the character.
I explored trance-based improv a couple of times over the last few years and this links to that practice. This is without masks, just performers being in trance. This sounds the same as being entrenched in the character. I will write a blog about this topic, separately. It is more to do with flow and trance, with a little potential for NLP and hypnotic states (areas for me to look into for practice-as-research sometime).
Nonetheless, the idea of a character without the actor present means that the audience can be with the character too. You can think of films that had famous actors in and you only noticed at the end or part way through; this is because they were swept away and you went with them. Be encompassed by what the character is - go on the journey with them and see where they take you.

5. Explore mentalities and physicalities
Fundamentally, these prior four suggestions are all about exploration of mentalities and physicalities. You can achieve a lot by leaning into the discoveries and letting go of what the usual practice is. What more can you do? Try a distinctly new mentality of your practice and within your practice of improv. The characters can come from a novel mental state. Explore who they are and what that means for the scene. Likewise, by adopting some of the previous advice, you will be performing from a mentality that could bring about something cataclysmically different. Similarly, the exploration of physicality can lead to stylistic choices that could be of great intrigue. Who improvises Beckett? What is that physicality to your scene? How about Berkoff? I taught improvised Berkoff once. It asks so much more of your improvisers - even more in a rehearsal room, as to teach a short class requires reducing it to more usual improv gimmicks and games.  

In conclusion, try stuff. Not the normal tenets of improv. That has existed for quite some time and we can explore further. Comedy happens in Beckett, in Berkoff, but theatre practitioners (more generally) create different theatre to one and another. We can do so in improv too. Skill-up, explore and you can bring about improv that is definitely performed better than most.

Those names in parentheses:

Forsythe, J. (1996). Spirituality in Actor Training. Theatre Research in Canada, 17(1). Available at: https://journals.lib.unb.ca/index.php/TRIC/article/view/7160/8219.

Thorpe, A. (2014). How can Westerners study Japanese Noh? An interview with Richard Emmert, Director of the Noh Training Project and Theatre Nohgaku. Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, 5(3), 321-333. doi:10.1080/19443927.2014.940113.

Sunday 13 January 2019

Guest blog: Why Improv?


Having discovered improv comedy a year ago and having fallen under its spell, I find myself trying to explain what compels me to return again and again to what feels like its magic.

Having dived deep into another weekend course this one called “Efficiency in Scenework” with Nathan Keates. I find myself already missing its end, even though I’m only half way through.

So the word magic seems apt.  This is the best way I can explain what occurs in improv. But don’t get me wrong it’s not that all that happens is magic, it’s just that sometimes magic happens.

And what is this magic I hear you ask? Well I don’t know what it is, but except it brings a feeling of joy. A place where you are in a world of imagination, on the cusp of discovery and where you sometimes find gold.

Perhaps we should call it fools gold, because once you discover it, it has gone again and that can never be repeated in the same way, but it then it does return in another, later place, often in one you are least expecting. And at that moment its like you’ve been kissed with delight and often a response of laughter. One more note about improv is that the magic it can be found in watching others find their own gold and also it is often found in collaboration with others.

One area I have had a similar experience is working with clay, in which out of something formless something emerges and often almost without intention and impersonally. It's as if we are responding to the clay in some symbiotic dance between creator and potential where on some occasions there is some magical conclusion, and also sometimes not.

So there is something more generally to be said about being in touch with this creative edge and being in the moment and it being impersonal.

Improv is one place I can find this, but creativity in any form can be the edge we need. To be present, playful and enquiring allows us to drop the fa├žade that we are in charge of this manifesting present, we are a part of the play but not in charge of the script, as it is continually unfolding before us. At this edge perhaps we feel most in touch with the creative spirit within us and creativity around us, and it feels right and we feel good and we want more.

So why improv?  
I think it’s about the creative magic, of how you lose yourself in the present, and sometimes out of it comes a real present. For which I say thank you please come again. And I do.

By Chris 

Friday 4 January 2019

5 awesome tips for being bold onstage

Every improviser seeks to be better at improv. One way is to just be bolder onstage. Nonetheless, is that easy to achieve? What does that really mean? If we ignore the constant invention, re-invention of categorising people (which is fun and interesting to a point - it is just not practical), we can look at what skills and attitudes gain results. Here are my five tips to being bold onstage, and they are not about being big, broad-stroke characters (you can do all sorts of improv using these).

1. See everything (that you have currently managed, and see what else you wish to push to notice next)

If you notice it, then you'll use it. This gives an appearance of making choices, when the reality is that you've increased the amount of what you get point out. You can use everything; this will be either internally or explicitly. You get to directly reference what you have observed, heard or felt in response in the scene, or you can internalise these. It depends what it is, but you will seem bold as a performer.

No one is ever aware of everything. It's fundamentally why improv is endless. There's no end to what you could be aware of and you'll never be always aware of the same stuff. Do what you do, seek to notice more.

Bold by using it. This defeats the problem mentioned in the introduction, boldness is not being brutal in performance approach. A gentle improviser may be more open; a careful improviser will access more that is around them and inside themselves. These make you bolder, as you have more to use.

2. Trust yourself 

The only difference between experienced and beginner is trust and confidence in themselves and others. This means that you must find a place in yourself where you know you can do all what you want to do now. To use a Razowski-ism, if you know you want something, you have already found it. 

You are enough. You can do all you want to do currently, the way that you know it. I have left people to do what they do, and it turns out interesting. I would not say that it suits me, but I am clogged up with experiences in improv and theatre - it seems illogical in design what they wanted to do. However, if people want to be self-taught, it is important to stay out their way (to some extent). This exclaims that you will do what you do, but the best effect from it comes from trusting that you will deliver what you want to. You are all you need to be to perform your improv.

3. Use sustainable physicality 

The connotation about being bold brings up physical presence onstage. If you are comfortable in yourself, then you will hold stage presence anyway. However, in characters, you get to use a physicality that distinguishes one person you find from another.

When finding these characters, being open to exactly what you do will enable the character to be defined. Each character needs to be sustainable. You must be able to keep this going. I remember an early performance of my own back in 2008 where I explored the essence of Decon opening in a highly-structured and silly longform format, ‘The Flurry of Florence’. It was theatre with set, props and two actors. In the premiere of the production, I did not find a sustainable voice; I think the character I was going to be started Australian (I don’t promote using accents). The accent disappeared. Lets not let your characters drop; if you physicalise something, stick with it. A person is who they are through how they are.

4. Have a specific (and personally memorable) voice

This is alike the last, but on vocally finding your character. Obviously, as the anecdote in the last one determines, it must be sustainable. However, more importantly, it must hold details within it. Notice the specific elements of what you are doing. If you are not a voice person, don’t try to be. Maybe one day you will be, but the voice a character has needs to be personally memorable. Be in the right show for this to work for you, too.

The show you choose to be in will ask certain stuff from you. A person with a bad back, should not be in a physical theatre piece, and a person with less voice capabilities should not do a set that asks them to create through a wide vocal change.

5. Try out performing like someone else would - get away from your own defaults and nail down how someone else would adopt a persona

On the contrary, we do not want improvisers staying safe, as that makes your improv pointless. It was McDermott that said (in person, no reference to when) that improv requires risk, otherwise the purpose of using improvisation is lost. Just devise or write, in which case. We all have defaults we go to in improv, either consciously (I hope not) and subconsciously. Don’t be safe, take the risks that makes the theatre feel alive and present with this audience.

You can perform like someone else. Not for a set, but for a character, improvise like someone else would. Adopt a persona of them performing this character you are finding. It will break the boundaries of how you perform; it would also ensure that, through total embodiment, you will achieve something vastly different that usual.

Thursday 3 January 2019

Top 5 Improv Moments of 2018

It is the end of 2018, so what has been a delight of the year? Here are 5 of the great moments of my year in improv.

1. North coast residual energy

I like musical improv, but something has been missing for a number of years. I was seeking something and wished to explore. However, I had not the time or the people. Thus, I was left in the same zone, but definitely missed it. This year saw me give into wanting musical improv in my life again and I grabbed the given opportunity by Piotr to engage in North Coast. I have written this before, but I shall repeat; I wanted to take all their classes a few years ago: freestyle rap, looping and beatboxing. Therefore, this opportunity was something I had to jump at, regardless of my own qualms with musical improv. 

Freestyle rapping is fun, but I tripped a lot in the weekend with North Coast. Failing led me to thinking about my limitations, the results of which can be read on this blog (link). I spent a weekend with wonderful, lovely people and engaged in something I had wanted to for a number of years. 

Since the class, I have made housemates do freestyle on three social media platforms in one drink-fuelled night (for me). It was meant to be frivolous and fun, even if just for me. It was. We shared both the success and failure of freestyling for an audience. There will be more freestyle, but perhaps designed with less of the ‘failure’ and more stupidity in flow - we shall see. 

2. Clown session in Greece

It was immense, the pleasure that comes from clown. I taught three workshops in the Mount Olymprov festival this year, which, in its own right, was a great experience. It is a fantastic festival. So many wonderful humans in the festival that I could connect with and through the happenstance of improv. The clowns developed through my touring class: ‘Clown for your Improv’. 

There were plenty of beautiful, hilarious moments in the day. However, something that highlights the clear connection of clown is the times when a ridiculous thing creates consistent laughs: A simple, yet somehow silly, leg move gained so much laughter! 

Overall, the session was splendid, as with teaching clown, I got to see people getting into who they are, playing and working through their personal blocks. During this year, I have had the opportunity to explore different capabilities and skills with students of mine. They all point out what is fundamental in using clown in your improv: give in to it all. 

In the session in Greece, we explored pathetic clown too. It was a great insight into theatre. By removing the laughs and not the clown, we get a deeper emotional connection to the scene being created in the moment. Clowns can offer us connection, emotionally intense realities, and those simple clown laughs. 

3. London chat with improv loves 

I went to a improv networking event. It was the summer picnic, but it rained. I arrived at Hyde Park, then walked about getting more wet per step. I was a little early, so basically played the game of guess what pub we were going to. I was wrong a number of times. However, the location was put online and I dashed over as quick as I could.

The bar was spotted with only improvisers. As the event went on, there were so many people of the improv scene in London that I adore. We began with some board games that I had not heard of before. The crazy simple card game that is 1-20 with cards and added, extra complications. Awesome game. Eventually, as we would, we added in someone being blind to their own cards. Then I played it with a small collection blind by myself. I got 4 out of the 5 cards correct! I think. 

Seeing people on such sparse occasions makes you think about the past and into nostalgia; however, this whole blog post is nostalgic. In summary, I loved to chat to the new people, those with similar mindsets, and those that have podcasts. 

A lot of improv love goes to all those I chatted to on that night. 

4. ‘Triptych’ in Basingstoke improv weekend class was a phenomenal output 

If you want to know what can come from improv, then seeing these two sets would have opened your mind. In a weekend class I ran in Basingstoke this year, I got the participants to perform two sets of what retrospectively has been called ‘Triptych’. I first used the structure of this format in Helsinki, Finland. I wished for the performers to explore their own capacity. It was great then, as they loved doing dramatic improv. However, in my local classes, it is useful to use it (if it seems advisable) in my level two course, ‘Efficiency in Scenework’. 

The outcome of the sets in Basingstoke was theatre that had depth and purpose. As any ‘correct’ theatre-maker can tell you, we create with meaning and purpose. Why are you asking someone to watch this? Why is it important to put on? Whether or not you are putting up Theatresports or this Triptych form, we still use the time and space to offer something of value to our audiences. Whatever we make, we seek theatre, comedic or not (the disclaimer must be that it may not always be hugely poignant). 

In the class, in ‘Triptych’, the proposal of structure is so little when you have actors present such magic before your eyes. They truly explored the greater possibilities of creating live theatre before an audience using themselves fully. 

5. Improvised Shakespeare Company at Soho Theatre 

I'm glad to have gone to see this company. The likelihood of seeing them is less so when living in the UK. I trained in the late-improv venue in Hollywood, so did not see them when in the States. Prior to that, I was in Chicago in 2007, so with limited time and know-how back then, I missed the opportunity. I couldn’t tell you who I saw when there then, anyway. I believe the set I almost recall in iO ended very meta - but I loved that. I think I must have seen Mike O’Brien in Second City foyer with a miserable expression, ignoring me; I was aimlessly excited and smiling at him. I went to the University of Chicago - Compass link - and looked up where I should go on their computers. Anyway, I saw Improvised Shakespeare Company many many years later: this year. 

Soho theatre is a wonderful venue, especially for seeing great names in improv. If you are an American improv company with decades to your name and a level of improv fame, then Soho Theatre is your venue. You get to charge four times as much as usual (dependent on who you compare the cost to) and a good run in a lovely space. 

Their production was fun and Shakespearean. There isn’t much to say about it, except I just liked the experience; I like going to that theatre, I like being able to see these acts, and I liked what they did. It made me laugh, which doesn’t happen so much with improv nowadays. 

Wednesday 28 November 2018

The ‘Improv And’ Series: Anxiety

In this series of ‘Improv And’ blogs, I shall be quickly discussing the use of improv for certain diagnoses and other uses. For this posting, the topic is anxiety. This is close to my research and an important topic in modern society.


Picture from uofmhealth

Anxiety can be diagnosed in various ways, this includes Social Anxiety Disorder, General Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and more. These all have differing criteria for being labelled with, which you can look at on the NHS website. Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), as well all of them, impact life in a major way. SAD makes social situations become an overwhelming fearful circumstance. As it affects everyday activities, relationships and people’s self-confidence, there is need to find a solution. What is also the case is that many people feel anxious and may not be diagnosable, but still require help. There are many remedies that are offered. Some people found improv comedy to be beneficial. 

The research suggests that using improv comedy could be an effective intervention. When we improvise, the basic requirement of the participants are that they support one and another. This equates to a room full of people that are being non-judgmental and accepting. A social situation, which includes everyone knowing that others are in the same position, means that no one will be forming negative perceptions on anyone - not that this would occur in any other group, anyway. Also, improv forms communities. These communities and new friendships build trust in the participants and create long-lasting relationships that help sustain positivity and a supportive group. Furthermore, the fact that we do comedy, create funny moments, means that we gain laughter from watching and participating. This laughter leads to catharsis and can notably be healing. A group of people laughing together forms stronger bonds and builds trust once more. 

It is important to state that improv comedy is not therapy and should not be used like it is. The advice organisations suggest is to attend these classes as well as the therapy that professionals advise. There are programmes that are run that use improv and therapy in one intervention; these are usually run by therapists that are keen to bring the value of improv to anxious people. In some cases, improv has out-performed therapy. For example, an intervention that mixed Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and improv, gained the same results in a shorter time. This was found to be better through the use of externalisation (an outward focus) as it gives a positive affect. 

Overall, the benefits of improv could be: 

  • Being with supportive and non-judgmental people; 
  • Forming positive feelings through community-building and new friendships; 
  • And laughter as having catharsis and can be healing.

Friday 26 October 2018

Reflection: North Coast Freestyle Rapping (Hip Hop) weekend

I used to freestyle rap for improv. However, at one point many years ago, I said to a casting director in a random audition that I could freestyle rap and I realised that I probably shouldn’t promote that - I do improv, not actual comparable rapping. It was a fun moment to have been in. I backtracked so hard after hearing me say that. In any case, since that moment, I do not think that I have done much rapping or musical improv. This is odd, as I love musical improv; I love doing it, I enjoy seeing it, and I am thrilled when getting others into it. In 2011, a fairly new pal played Beastie Boys rap with me and others in a class or rehearsal for a production that I was creating, and fell head over heels in love. It was a glorious moment. One aspect that I should mention in passing, as it would most likely become a question, is why stop what you love? The simple answer is I have hang-ups on musical improv in general. I need to address what can be seen in the global realm of it by how I present what I would prefer to see onstage. We all, and our audiences, have preferences; I shall address mine over time by doing everything that I can. The reason to state this more so, is due to what that does when you do perform or practice some musical improv, or freestyle rapping. E.g. like a pole up the b-hind. I saw North Coast’s advert for three amazing sounding courses years ago - apparently that could have been three years ago. These were freestyle rapping, beatboxing and looping. In Bristol, I played with beatboxers, sometimes they were looping, and we could rap or sing with the music being created. My interest in these, and sound production, is certainly in existence. I love improv: the live nature of the art creation. It does not matter whether it is Beardyman and him creating music in the moment, or Reggie Watts and his quirky musical mischief, to your short-form type of freestyle rap with Abandoman or MC Hammersmith. To add further clarity, I don’t listen to rap, it literally is the freestyle aspect that I enjoy. So, I wrangled my way into the hip hop weekend with North Coast this year. I was lucky that the person that dropped out had not taken a course before, as I think a gentle route through a weekend of freestyling was enough. What I realised from that course is there are three types of ways to get to a rhyme. As I have said, I teach musical improv and have taught rhyming, so the revelation here was the extra way to it. I have always preferred one over the other too. The revelation was not in the course or from the class, but the day after as I keep doing exercises from the two-day lesson. On numerous occasions I did not succeed. I felt good when I just did what I do, but there is no point in being content with that. I thought that maybe I should step up with personal challenges of stuff I used to be able do, but it was not necessary. I had failed before this thought many times too, but it was an idea of seeing what was in me or not. The reason I didn’t is why the revelation was possible. There was one exercise that I struggled to get into, for reasons I assume that I know and knew (the assumption is that I am correct). The wonderful teacher fixed that, but I still landed in judgement and nonsense - the latter word being a judgement, so it has not gone… my proposition for this blog is presenting practices of three (or so) exercises from the weekend (and as I recall them). Some of them that I shall post of me will be me failing, which shall come with the context of this blog. The three types of ways to get to a rhyme are:

1. Here is the exercise: Click
The Quick Get The quick get is what I teach, but never really used or realised what I meant or how to use it. This is the revelatory one, but it really should not have been. The use of this in the North Coast exercise Pull Up is a good idea. The blank slate that I enjoy being is less useful when the rhymes come fairly swiftly in a set rhythmic flow. Therefore, I messed up a lot and ended in judgement, whether I completed the segment or not. The quick get is simply choosing the rhyming word straight after you hit the end of the line / word you will rhyme with. Some people may perceive this as the main way to free-flow, but it is not.

2. Set up, lilypadding or rollerdexing

The way that frustrates me is ‘rollerdexing’ being taught too soon. North Coast call it ‘lillypadding’. It is not something I enjoy doing a lot, which should be obvious from an above comment. This is about literally setting up the rhyme, so you need to plan out the rhyming word that comes first and then use that spectacular topic word to amaze your au

It is possible to do this in the previous game, but I shall use North Coast’s game ‘I Like Butts’: Click

3. Let it drop in

What I really enjoy and promote is allowing yourself to let the words drop in and playing with the flow. Less planning, but you have moments of quick gets that are natural and the even better moments of surprisingly wonderful rhymes that you would have never thought of. 

I demonstrate this with North Coast’s exercise on finding your flow with a topic of love or hate: Click

Monday 22 October 2018

5 ways to instantly have an engaging improv show without performing ‘better’

How many times have you read that you are not good enough as an improviser? There are countless top tips that will make you the best of the best at performing improv comedy. However, do they work and make you better? It is unlikely that a few words will change why you perform. It is not how you perform that needs addressing (most of the time), as you've sat through all those workshops; you've probably gone to tons of international teachers too.
Their value comes when teaching that other way that you haven't done yet… or digging deeper into that field of improv, which you currently desire greatly. Subsequently, this post is not about those still developing into their interest in a specific realm of improv comedy. Although, you are enough too: This is true even when developing, as you're enough to do what form you know (in the way you know it). In any case, there is more to your improv than you.
The top tips of today are about what can be done without addressing your acumen at acting funnily, or performing in general.

  1. Use theatrical lighting

The comedic theatre, or dramatic for some, that you present is a kind of theatre that people watch. Therefore, to make it engaging and the best tip of these, use lighting effectively. A simple white wash state across the stage is not a dynamic and interesting image to look at. The technician of the theatre is talented and can be spontaneous. If you let them play with you and create the atmosphere of the scene through striking visuals, then your production will immediately become brilliant.
If you wish to work out why this is true, find that reoccurring blog bit that asks you to state whether the group photo is a ska band promotional photo or an improv group. Nonetheless, the real topic is not on promotional photos (even though the use of them are advocated too). Have a look at what photos are thrilling to see of general scripted theatre and compare then to captured improvised theatre. The expectation is that improvised theatre misses what those glorious lamps create for the audience. It is a generalisation that does not fit every improv comedy production that has ever been made, but the point being made is what is being endorsed.   

  1. Have musicians

It is obvious that if adding great imagery to your work is useful, then putting in sound too would be wise. Using multiple musicians for a strong, textured, sound adds quality to the production by bringing about an atmosphere. The American history or modern improv comedy used pianists to add to their sets, which worked well. In the modern world, some use electronic music. Either way, the additional sound supports the improvised scenes. For example, a horror film without the music and sounds behind the action would not be scary at all. Onstage, a strong silence is stronger when there has been sound. The musician can set so much about the scene, including scenic details as well as the ambiance.
The contradiction to this is that it must fit the production being offered. This only means using the right musicians. The other issue is that musicians aren't always available and costly. There was one production that used a odd instrument as the sole music to the production and the guy ran off with most of the profit of the run… and didn't really do a lot. Unfortunate, but the point to take is to use the right instruments and reputable musicians. In that production, it was a random find that was gambled on. Create the work, don't let it create you: as the fools’ world suggests.

  1. Use appropriate staging and sets

When you enter a theatre, what do you see? The auditorium might be gorgeous and stimulating the brain. However, if you're not in an old or fancily designed space, then you will need to alter what else your audience sees. They look at the stage. What does that tell them that is relevant to your production? You could have a full-scale set, if that's the design of the show, or something more simple… and the word keeps appearing… an atmosphere. There is no reason to not add something for your audience to get intrigued by to start with. They came to see your production, you might as well congratulate them on doing so by giving them a night to remember.

  1. Have an audience that came for what you are presenting (less ambiguity)

Do you know what production you're performing? Will the audience, which may love that production, be aware what it is? It seems simple to say, but how frequently do improv comedy companies set the audience in the right frame for their events? The answer, even for someone who is well aware of such, is not often and rarely. This is also on the thought to create your work, the ‘why perform’.
Many people rely on that marketable gimmick that alludes to what they are performing to sell their tickets. It works, obviously. A sustainable production on the back of a well understood genre, famed cultural classic or person will enable the new spectator to improv to instantly feel acquainted. However, there are a lot of them that exist, and they are not all the same. How do production companies frame their version of Hamlet? Audiences mostly know what the play is, but if you are setting it in 1930s with WW2 - I am certain (not only due to recently hearing about something similar) that they want to know. The purist Shakespeare fans will not want to come to be disappointed. This is the same for improv purists with what you may be doing with your productions.
Therefore, sell your production and not just the gimmick. Furthermore, do this so as to get your audience that you deserve and who would love to see your production. Know what you are selling and tell people what it is and not a vague overview of what a Harold is. Of course, everyone has done it and probably will slip into doing so still; however, let’s try to be clear.

  1. Stop clenching the buttocks about achieving the form

Once you have sold the production, you must perform it… however, there is little to nothing worse that a bunch improvisers trying to do their production. The form is just the ‘house you shit in’ (as per Messing; the year I first heard her say this is forgotten, otherwise I would state it here). Hence, the need to not be overly concerned with it. Leave the process of building and guiding your production to your director, or coach (the person in the audience, hopefully) watching you. On numerous occasions, there have been shows that did not meet the performer’s desires - this gets in your way: it is a greater problem when you are performing and the director and/or producer and have so much hope and aspiration for the production.
So, remember that you are onstage to improvise: improvise first and let the form exist based on rehearsal and not mental capacity to recall what you ‘should’ be doing. No one wants to see you ‘should on yourself’ (Razowsky; I am sure I first heard this from him before meeting in person).

The obvious problem with all of these tips is that you may not have the facilities or resources to do them. On the other hand, you can manage something. A small stage can still be lit well. A empty room above a pub can have an audience knowing what they have come to see. Fundamentally, it has to fit your event. If these don't work due to your audience type, your production, then the reality is that all the above are being used the way your production requires. Engage in your art and theatre with your audience, in the way you design it. Lastly, remember that not all of your improv can be improvised.

Sunday 7 October 2018

Culture of the city

There is improv comedy and theatre in many towns and cities across the United Kingdom. The few that shall be included in this discussion are ones that have a personal connection. We can question how much the culture of the city affects the art, the theatre and how we improvise. The ever-growing community in these local areas bring themselves, there background and their surroundings. There shall be four towns or cities that shall be investigated.



In Canterbury, Kent, improv comedy began many years ago. It has had a lot of comedy and improv, specifically, historically. Noise Next Door, who tour the UK stand-up comedy venues performing hilarious improv, started their careers in Canterbury. There has been improv in schools in Kent due to the work of such people as Lucy Fennell. Similarly, there has been some in the universities too. 

Students still have improv comedy. Nowadays, it is solely focused on doing improv. The growth in the group has developed splendidly. Not only do they perform, or have done, long-form (30 minute non-linear, thematic productions or improvised plays), but they have been a member of Theatresports (iTi; short-form competitive full-scale evening of a myriad of emotional theatre that is very funny). 

What is the impact on the theatre created from the culture of Canterbury? It would be thought that what people must want from their art is improvised Chaucer or other literary-based creation. However, with a student population in the improv community, there are younger politics involved, as well as their sensibilities. Nonetheless, that relatability and human nature is still at the core of the comedy in Canterbury. From the funny of love to the hysterics behind rivalry in the office, Kent seems to offer a wide variety of laughter.  

The local community can once more engage in improv comedy with the Canterbury Improv classes. There are weekly drop-in classes and weekend intensive courses. 



In Basingstoke, Hampshire, the arts world is quite small, and yet the improv comedy community is growing. There are two theatres that are now one organisation, and one company that have their own arts venue near the top of town. Nonetheless, this does not affect the desire for comedy in Basingstoke. 

Hampshire, in general, has had some fantastic improv. In Havant, near Portsmouth, there was a theatre company that ran improv productions and classes. Unfortunately, they have stopped now. The wonderful and aforementioned lady, now working in Southampton, has been teaching improv in a school that has performed recently. Also in Southampton, the students there run comedy events that include improv. So Hampshire seems fertile for more improv. 

Basingstoke is a commuter town, so it can be believed. There is a lot of business and computer-related occupations, and holistic therapy too. The impact of this on the comedy and theatre created seems to be fairly minimal. It could be the teaching that has been provided, but there is silliness, with physical comedy, and once more a human connectedness to what drives people to laugh. 

The local community in Hampshire can take advantage of the Basingstoke Improv weekend intensive classes that occur. Likewise, the improv comedy nights that happen may continue, so you can see performances and chuckle thoroughly.  



In Cardiff, Wales, the history of improv has a fair amount of lineage. Rob Brydon, for example, although he should be mentioned in the next city - due to it being group in Bath. There have been a number of groups in the past, anyway. Cardiff loves its comedy. There is a strong focus on stand-up comedy, with some sketch. 

There is not a lot of improv comedy in Wales, overall, but the reoccurrence of it says a lot. Wales lusts for more. It is a great principality for wonderful theatre. Amazing circus, clown and musical productions. Specifically in Cardiff, this description still works, as it has NoFit State circus and Hijinx Theatre - and many more. 

Cardiff loves its weekends and rugby. The impact on improv is more likely, however, to come from the theatre practices. The prospective faster-pace of stand-up seems to drive those that dabble to short-form games - not that long-form cannot be fast (it can be faster, more often). 

The wider community, and the local, can benefit from the Cardiff Impro weekend classes that are run in the capital city of Wales: Cardiff. The potential for monthly improv comedy nights with a variety of productions is available. Hopefully, Chapter Arts centre shall host these when all the puzzle pieces are aligned. 



Lastly, Bristol has a vast amount of improv comedy and theatre now. This is many thanks to the graduates of the university there. Specifically, it is thanks to one man: Andy Yeoh. He is a remarkable guy and has formed the foundations of the community there so that the growth can be exponential. Every few years, the boom happens and there are more possibilities. There has been improv there for many years, not just from the university, as there are theatre companies that do improvise and nearby, in Bath, there was the group with Rob Brydon and Ruth Jones. That was lead by Paul Z Jackson (from the Applied Improvisation Network, these days).

Bristol has a lot of arts. The glorious dancers, circus, clown, fools, magicians, musicians... The weekly events that no one can keep up with is why Bristol is an amazing city to live in. The impact on the improv there must be true. Nonetheless, the funny does come from the human qualities; whether they are presented through a more clown perspective or emotional theatricality, they are accessible. 

The local community have the weekend intensive classes to support their development and drive the improv comedy and theatre scene into a wider range of production styles. We seek to connect, we wish to play. 



Let’s find the funny together!



www.nathanimprov.com/p/local.html



#findthefunnytogether

Thursday 21 September 2017

University Improv Comedy Society Manual book on Amazon

Books! Books! Books!

From the first to the second, not yet the third... My first book published can be found on Amazon. My second is about to begin its process from mind to paper. As it must be clear enough, I have an interest in autism. The next book will be about the autism spectrum conditions. After completing a master's degree on autism, I am most certainly eager to write more! I am looking forward to beginning the writing for it. I have a publisher in mind for this one. I will keep focused on completing a high-quality book, then submit my next masterpiece.

The first book, University Improv Comedy Society Manual, had a long process of looking at my teaching discoveries and then adapting it to suit universities or colleges. As the blurb states, the curriculum works for the limited time that students have each year. It helps guide students through the needs of scenic improv comedy art forms and give them the necessary chance to continue the society further on. Once complete, the students will be highly talented in the general improv comedy world.
So much joy can happen in society groups. The experience can really help in life and academia, as Alex Newson writes about in the book. I thoroughly enjoy his solo show that popped into existence during my year with that society. There are a lot of funny times and crazy wonderful moments that can occur in improv, in hanging out together and touring around to gigs; I advocate it a lot, so get the book and begin your improv comedy society!

This one time, at improv comedy soc, I found a new way into a trance state using the students' focus. 

Tuesday 20 October 2015

Master and Veterans

It is nice to be inspired to write an article. It is equally as nice to note the hypocrisy of the articles. In this, the topic shall be what has been written against previously. There are terms in improv that are not productive; common agreed terms that are not useful are 'should' or 'supposed to', because they put pressure and impossible for improv has definites: Obviously nothing has to happen, it is improvised. Nonetheless, the terms that this discusses and have a long-lastingly dislike for are master and veteran. The following will discuss, in a less referenced level than usual, the reasons that link to the previously used words.

Words! In improvisation, the training provides a freedom; it gives opportunity to explore yourself and your language (specifically in context of this article). The words that get uttered are the greatest, even if they are not. Improvisers build on whatever is said and done. After improving from the basics, further courses could well expand this into wider awareness of tone, phrasing and physical speech (any communication that is physical). Essentially, as improvisers that are building more experience and trust in ourselves and each other, people then get to own their words. Therefore, the word improv means something exact. In the Oxford English Dictionary (Oxforddictionaries.com, 2015), the definition of improvise is clear, “Create and perform … spontaneously or without preparation.” However, it also states for improvisation (ibid.), “The action of improvising”. The more appropriate of these definitions that works for the people in the art form is the one for 'improvising'. Due to one needing to refer to the other, as defined by O.E.D it is required that improvisation is in action of something in order to improvise. Therefore, that 'something' can be any action, anything. The word improvisation is a noun, a thing, and the definition relates purely to the action. Therefore, it is fair to suggest that improv is not a thing, but a doing of a thing. Another commonly agreed part of defining improv is by observing that it is all in process. All of humanity, and others, are in process: Our lives are improvised and are a process of birth to death (if not birth to death, then a to b). Improv is not just doing scenes or group games, or any other limited perception. To see further than this we can look at Forced Entertainment, Improbable, Fluxx, Geese Theatre Company and no doubt more.

Improv is an action and not the form. A form is seen to be, “The visible shape or configuration of something.” (Oxforddictionaries.com, 2015) Therefore, the form of improvisation can be scenic, dance, music, art, clown, fool, mask; however, then that is looking more into the subgenre of ‘scenic’, which is fact a subgenre of theatre. It is possible to improvise anything. Even scriptwriting is based in improvisation. A writer could have learnt and use as much structure as the person requires, but in the end the idea has to spontaneously come from somewhere. Once more, that seems a little too pedantic to continue this dissection with. Other verbs have form. For example, walk; when we walk we can walk in various shapes and configurations; it is possible to be in the form of a catwalk. This form has various conventions that can require the way you complete your verb, walking, can be restricted. Similarly, another verb is run; in this action we can run in the form of 100 metres or a cross country race. This is the exact same as improvising, as the forms we can use are numerous.
A master of an activity, skill or area of study has its acknowledged definitions and uses. The common understanding of a master is a person that has the most knowledge on the topic in the room. Therefore, every time one steps into a space, a survey would need to be taken to determine who the master is in that moment. The statement is hyperbolic; however it makes a sensible comment on the use of the term. In accordance to this, it is not wise to call oneself a master, because one cannot know that for sure. On the other hand, The Oxford English Dictionary (Oxforddictionaries.com) states the definition as “a skilled practitioner of a particular art or activity.” This offers a looser use of the term; anyone could be a master in one given location. Nonetheless, for various areas of expertise a master may not well be very skilled. When does one know that they are skilled? It is subjective, as one person's mastered skillset is another's student development.

To use these ideas in more of a context, improv being a process and not a thing means that being skilled at doing so is not possible. Can one master life? Life is also a process. To claim that an improviser has mastered the art form would be stating that they stopped improvising, alike stopped living; no one can currently know if the dead died due to their mastership. Improv is built on risk and change, or purely the 'not knowing'. Phelim McDermott (McDermott, 2008) once said, and this is paraphrased, that if improvisers stop taking the risk and do what they generally do, then they should stop improvising. There is no point in performing the art form if you are no longer learning and discovering because it is visible to the audience. Therefore, not being able to use the term master for improv, as it is subjective anyway, could allow people to rephrase the word's use. An improviser who is skilled at what they do could say that they are a master of what they do. This makes more sense. However, if improvisers master themselves, then we generally call this using their defaults. Using one's defaults is not seen as a positive.

Likewise, to look at the term veteran, The Oxford Dictionary (Oxforddictionaries.com) states, “A person who has had long experience in a particular field” and it must be mentioned that the other definition is the major connotation that was known. To be “An ex-member of the armed forces” seemed like stating that improv is a battle field. Improv is not the art form where we serve our country. It is important to own this ridiculousness. On the otherhand, an improviser who has had a long experience onstage improvising could be anyone. Once more, this term holds a lot of subjectivity. How long is a long experience? There is no answer. Even moreso, someone new to the art form can have more and better insight into the art form than a 'veteran'. Purely out of not knowing the teachings, the person can see clearer as they have nothing to obscure their view. Fundamentally, to use the term on oneself seems like ego. People have them, for sure, but it is not useful.

Hierarchy in improv seems pointless. Anyone can make a comment that holds value, which happens; therefore being a master or veteran is overvalued. Inside the structure that improv generally has around the world, teachers need to offer their students confidence. Along with being a teacher, ego would enter as segment of their trusting atmosphere. Contrastingly, training can hinder and ruin the untainted person when they enter improv. It is possible to look around and see untrained improvisers doing the job. In Bristol there has been various untrained improvisers that have gotten onstage and had an easier or more relaxed time than people that trained and still struggle.

In conclusion, the terms are unproductive. Improvisation is a process and being a master of it would merely determine that person as having stopped improvising. One can only master one's own improvisation and then be a default and predictable, offering the same as usual; this is called devising, therefore. Similarly, being a veteran is subjective. An improviser who needs to be a veteran wants their ego to inflate. Improvisation requires us to be equal, as anyone can give insight anyway.

Bibliogrpahy

McDermott, P. (2008). Cooking Chaos.
Oxforddictionaries.com, (2015). improvisation - definition of improvisation in English from the Oxford dictionary. [online] Available at: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/improvisation [Accessed 13 Jul. 2015].
Oxforddictionaries.com, (2015). improvise - definition of improvise in English from the Oxford dictionary. [online] Available at: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/improvise [Accessed 13 Jul. 2015].
Oxforddictionaries.com, (2015). master - definition of master in English from the Oxford dictionary. [online] Available at: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/master [Accessed 29 Jul. 2015].
Oxforddictionaries.com, (2015). veteran - definition of veteran in English from the Oxford dictionary. [online] Available at: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/veteran [Accessed 29 Jul. 2015].
Oxforddictionaries.com, (2015). form - definition of form in English from the Oxford dictionary. [online] Available at: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/form [Accessed 20 Oct. 2015].