Sunday, 19 February 2017

Practicing Spontaneity–Canadian Improv Games

We have come together
In the spirit of loving competition,
To celebrate the Canadian Improv Games.
We promise to uphold the ideals of improvisation,
To co-operate with one another,
To learn from each other,
To commit ourselves to the moment,
And above all…
To Have A Good Time!

This weekend I was in dire need of a good, therapeutic laugh.  If Trump speeches and a bad back weren't enough, two days of snow storms had made a mess of my work schedule and for those of us who are self employed, or like my friends in the food and service industry, if you don't work you don't get paid.  So, it was clear I was going to head into the LSPU Hall to catch the Newfoundland regionals of The Canadian Improv Games.

For years I have been saying I would do this and somehow managed to miss it.  This year was particularly enticing as the veteran improv crowd would be performing at a special Alumni Show.  I am one of those people who will be probably cracking jokes on her deathbed.  It is simply in my DNA and one of my cherished survival tools.  What so appeals to me about improvisational comedy is its innate resourcefulness.  It requires little preparatory time because you cannot rehearse it.  Granted, there are plenty of warm up exercises and there are always some structural things to push against.  For example, a time limit of 3 minutes per scene and each of the events has a category like theme, life event or character.  But there are delightful wild cards where the audience madly screams out suggestions for these categories such as "style", which can be anything from Disney musical to Shakespeare or a cheesy horror film.  This is a really shrewd way of knitting together the audience and performers through interaction.

These performances are staged as competitive games.  That means that instead of a master of ceremonies you have a madcap referee.  Sometimes, there are as many as three stooges acting as whistle blowing referees whipping up the audience into a hilarious frenzy and trying to contain the antics of competing teams of players.  When you think about it, the Improv Games is a winning mix of the unpredictable and favourite, recognizable elements–like "what's in the box?".  This will be a series of gag prizes raffled off for fundraising tickets that are sold in pairs, arm's length, etc right up to "mummified".  Then there is the oath with which every session starts and all audience members rise to recite with their right hand on their hearts. Believe me, as per the referee's instructions  you never know who will reach out with their left hand for your "G-rated body part". 

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