So, the fallow months of teamlessness have passed – I’ve ‘found my tribe’, as our iO teachers exhorted us (an audience of 40+ hungry, aspirational improvisers from around the UK and Europe) to do at the end-of-class Q&A.
Things have happened, are happening – moving at an almost startling pace.
C3467X are now hosting not one, but two monthly improv nights in London. Our ‘flagship’ night, Yada Yada K, has its inaugural outing next Tuesday. This, plus dates in Manchester and Dublin, and a slew of other London gigs before the year is out. Exciting times.
Last week I took my turn to run our weekly practice. I’d worked up some ideas I had kicking about from iO week in an effort to bring a focus I thought we would really benefit from – sharing and building upon each other’s ideas.
I’ve become increasingly aware that my group is not wanting for smart, talented players. If we need to do anything more, its to get used to working with one another in a way that allows everyone to fire on all cylinders.
The way I see it: build that connection up top, and the rest flows naturally.
The set below from iOWest team Trophy Wife, exemplifies this principle really well – a wonderfully fertile, generative initiation, where everyone pitches in or commits to what’s there. Their ideas flow organically from one to the next – a single train of thought coalescing from multiple minds.
The scenes that follow are not only wonderfully played, but the groundwork for them is all already in everyone’s minds. Both players and audience can recognise not only what’s happening, but can also probably remember where it came from. To me, this is improv doing what it does best.
Also, in terms of scene transitions, these cats look pretty slick.
So that’s my new bar… Now, how to reach it?
My practice session started with a bit of mirroring/mimicry work, followed by getting the team to assemble stage pictures of random objects together in increasing numbers. This built toward a structured opening called ‘the invocation’ – where the group builds a series of personal, symbolic and thematic ideas from the suggestion of a single object. We then ran scenes from what emerged.
My coaching technique clearly needs a lot more work, but overall I was really pleased with the results. After a couple of runs they were nailing it. Seeing how much my team could be inspired by each other’s ideas – and as a result be emboldened by that connection – was just superb. What’s more, the ideas generated seemed to me a lot more rich in detail and realistic than typically.
So, in summary, this is the kind of thing I’ve been wanting to understand and get into for years now. It’s great to finally actually be doing it.