The Way The Cool Kids On The Wellington Street Say It: Improv
Best On Tap sure know all about improv. You've probably seen them around town. They're the people behind MIXTAPE VOL 1 and 2, the sell out show THE F WORD and LETTERS FROM THE FRONT just to name a few!
They fill us in with this post.
“I am a teacher. (And I hate kids. And I love them.)”
Bobbi Block, our director and deviser of our format, arrived from teaching summer school at Otago Uni on February 10. The next day, we all gathered at Toi Poneke to begin our intensive training weekend. It was the first time all the players in this show have all been together in a room, ten days out from opening night.
And were we dark about missing the fantastic weather that day? If so, we were soon distracted by the meaty work and hijinks of training.
“I am an improviser”
People often ask: if it’s improvised, how do you rehearse?
It’s a combination of things.
Firstly, we practise the basics: scene work, games, complimentary characters, finding our truth in other people’s statements, painting, and stage techniques like how to edit scenes.
With these nuts and bolts we build stories that catch quickly the audience’s attention and make sense.
It’s like having a toolbelt. You sharpen up the various ways you can play together, so during the show it’s easy to reach for the next skill you’ll need to move the story along.
Next, we practice the format. This is the particular structure of this show, all the technical ins and outs, from how we’ll first step out in front of the audience, to the “middle game” we’ll play as a palate-cleanser about half way, to how we’ll know we’ve got five minutes to wrap up our stories in a satisfying way.
Some of us don’t have great memories. That’s a good reason to be an improviser instead of an actor. We concentrate hard to remember complicated instructions like “stand there” and “hold the card in your hand.” This is hard work.
Spending time together, having fun, making mistakes and connecting with each other forms the final jigsaw piece. You need to know who’s on stage with you, and know that you can trust each other. No matter what, we’ve got each other’s backs up there.
“I am a nuclear power plant worker”
“I am an obsessive cat mother”
“I am an artist working as a scientist”
In “Who?” we ask our audience to write down an answer to the question “Who are you?” The answers are our “prompts”, the things that inspire our scenes and characters.
We’ve been training using old audience answer cards from previous shows in America (this Fringe will be the international premiere!). They provide the most unexpected, dark, light, weird, insightful and inspiring mixture of personalities to play with.
We can’t wait to find out who our Kiwi audiences are and what shiny new stories they will prompt.
(The headings for this blog post come from real “Who?” audience answers.)
Kate and Matt try to get their points across in an online dating scene. Barry (head in hands) struggles with Matt's reference to "the merciful claw of the reaper."
9AM on a weekend is quite early for some people. Others of us (okay, me) are morning people, and we (I) revelled in it. NB: Me = Mary, not Official Fringe Blogger Jess. Jess is still not a morning person
Our cast (Nicola Pauling sadly not pictured): a combination of jully-formed improvers and floating heads. Clockwise form top left: Barry Miskimmin, Bobbi Block, Amy Davison, Kate Wilson, Wiremu Tuhiwai, Matt Hutton and Mary Little