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Posts Tagged ‘improv’

picture-12Improvisational theatre in performance is a challenging art form. Not a bad statement, and it’s something I fully back. I come from the thinking that theatre is accessible to everyone. Not always easy when audiences want amazing productions for low ticket costs. In fact, I think improv can do better. It can offer an amazing experience for a low cost.

Improvisers believe the Harold is a sacred art. Oh, we love it. Long form is an athletic and mental feat unlike any play. It takes guts, stamina, and ingenuity to make a golden egg from nothing.

Improv is both a reliable and terrible way to make some moolah. I’ve seen both sides of the commercial spectrum. On one side, I’ve been an audience member. I’ve paid $20 to see an hour and a half show which was full of quality improv. I’ve also paid $2 to see students, and that was fun too. On the other side I’ve done shows where we performed for free (and got a tip of $20.) Plus I’ve done high-paying private shows. We’re talking $1000 for an hour and a half..

Now the most impressive number is the production cost: $0. Now, yes, that number can go up. One could pay for props, marketing, and space rental. However, it’s feasible to produce a high quality show for $0. Be crafty, make deals – er, be like any artist without a budget (see below for tips.)

So why aren’t there more improv troupes? And I’m not talking scarcity. There are a fair share of improv groups across the country. I’m saying, why not more? It seems like a great starting point for artists. You learn the business side of the arts with a lower risk (though, god, there is always a high risk with the arts.) Plus, as Conan revealed in his “Inside the Actor’s Studio,” improv teaches writers and performers to throw it all out there.

And no one’s good at the start. It’s too freaking scary to be good at the start. But everyone gets better, more comfortable. Instead of making bad jokes, all improvisers learn to be more natural. They learn to rely on each other.

I see so many new theatre companies from college students and post-grad (after all I started one.) From that, I learned that a theatre company needs so much energy, time, and funding. It’s one of the most difficult endeavors to start a theatre company, but they’re popping up everywhere. But a lot of theatre companies fail thanks to artistic and funding pressure.

In improv if you put on a bad show it’s hell. You’re scared to death already, and the pressure of ticket buyers sits right on top of that fear. That’s hell, man. I’m talking stress. Though, I’ll take it over a theatre company.

Actors and the improv troupe’s business can recover from those early, amateur performances. And the low financial risk allows you to develop your talents professionally, in front of an audience. These troupes need to develop with audiences because acting in your garage won’t develop you.

And again, with some time and commitment you’ll start to see audience members fill up those seats.

I don’t mean to just make a case for actors to start an enterprise. I also hope the entire performing arts community will welcome these efforts.

Improv isn’t that respected, but I think that needs to change. Any theatre professor will tell you about Commedia dell’Arte, the old grandpappy of improv, still cherished in Italy’s theatre community. It has a proud tradition, and I think it should have a promising future. But the arts community has to see why it’s worth those $20 tickets, those $1000+ bookings.

Sure it’s sometimes dirty jokes and silliness, but improv should be seriously considered as medium for new projects. It’s already a developmental process behind the scenes of several popular TV and movie comedies. New playwrights are leaving room for actors to wiggle around the text. On top of that, dramatic improvisation has unexplored territories.

Prominence leads to pioneers. Advance the art by creating a business. It won’t pay all your bills, but it won’t leave you in ruins. Start a troupe.

Start a troupe.

Learn, build, apply.

Here are some resources and ideas:

  1. The improv encyclopedia at humanpingpongball.com. You can jump into some online articles, peruse some games, and learn about nationwide improv troupes
  2. Books: Truth in Comedy, Improvisation in the Theatre by the mother of improv Viola Spolin, and Impro (my favorite.)
  3. See a show. I’m betting there are at least 2 improv troupes near you.
  4. Talk to artists about improv. Ask if they’re interested in projects that might implement improv into the process. It could be an ensemble-driven play, or it could be a film project that uses treatments rather than traditional scripts.
  5. Talk to artistic directors at small theatres; see if there’s interest in teaming up for a project – “Improv Tuesdays” $10 tickets, split the tickets amongst your group and the theatre company. (Yes, when you need experience, it’s okay to take $3 and give them $7. Sound like bad business? It’s not. You’re gaining money – though smaller than you’d like – to gain important experience.)
  6. When you’re ready to jump into your own place, start at a community center. Bargain. Negotiate. Try to rent a space for 1 hr at 100 – 200 dollars. $10 tickets mean you only 20 people. 4 people in troupe, everybody market to 5 people. If you can’t find a place that cheap, keep searching. It’s not easy, but you’ll find a place. A coffee shop, a place about to be torn down, a community college or high school.
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You’re wired off that Starbucks seasonal latte you had at 10PM, and you’ve already checked your Facebook 500 times (And Sheila still hasn’t poked you back…)

What’s on Tv? Infomercial. Sigh. Shamwow? That must be bulls#$%It can’t pick up that much water. It’s cheap, but before you consider buying one you turn off the tube.

But then you remember a post you read (maybe this one) about 5 guys who decided to perform comedy on a streaming video network.

Hallelujah, there’s something to do.

Tonight at MIDNIGHT, you’ll get to watch a professional improv show via your computer. No need to RSVP, pay anything, or sign up….

Just show up to this link anytime around 12AM:  http://tr.im/2gk9 We look forward to seeing you there!

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