Wikipedia: Improvisation is the practice of acting, singing, talking and reacting, of making and creating, in the moment and in response to the stimulus of one’s immediate environment and inner feelings.
Sounds a lot like what an actor does, doesn’t it?
I’ve never considered myself an improviser. I did play improv games in high school, but I went to a French school and improvisation in French is very different from its English counterpart. Whereas most anglophones might associate improv with its Who’s Line Is It Anyway? type of humour, for francophones the games take place in a mock hockey arena setting. There is a referee and the teams wear jerseys in various colours. The ref can even assign penalties. Two teams compete and the audience votes after every game (or match) to see which team scored a point. These usually culminate into tournaments and eliminations rounds and all other kinds of sports related analogies.
Here’s a photo from la Ligue nationale d’improvisation to give you some idea of what I am talking about. If you want to know more and understand French, I encourage you to check out the link.
Although the University of Ottawa did (and does) have a French improv team, I was too intimidated to join at the time. At some point, some of my friends in the Theatre Department and a couple rats who hung around the Café Alternatif (which at the time was a hippy chic amalgamation of found furniture that lived up to its alternative name) decided to start an improv troupe. I think we called ourselves the Improv Dogs. We met every week, played some games against the team at Carleton University and even went to Montreal one time to compete. After a while though, things fell apart and we all went our separate ways.
I then didn’t do any sort of improv until I took a jam class with Ken Godmere at the Ottawa School of Speech and Drama a few years ago. And I guess you could call the work I do with Sanitas Playback Theatre a type of improv, but, like I said, I never considered myself an improviser before.
After last night though, I guess I may be allowed to start calling myself that.
The local (and awesome!) Crush Improv – whom I’ve talked about before – have had a habit of bringing together improvisers from all over for a variety of events. First it was the very popular Improv Awareness and now it’s the Tuesday Make-’em-ups with Crush Improv. I saw the very first Make-’em up in January and immediately approached Crush for an opportunity to play.
Fighting panic and nausea, I finally got my chance to play last night at the Cajun Attic in Ottawa. Most improv teams spend hours rehearsing together, learning both games and how to work with each other. The neat thing about the Make-’em ups is that you get thrown into a pit with three other people you might have never met before and told to just have fun. Easy right?
I was pretty unsteady for the first half of the show, just trying to get my bearings and desperately listen to my teammates. After intermission though, I felt slightly more comfortable, confident and took more chances, though I couldn’t help but walk off stage and think of all the HI-larious stuff I should have said at the time – I swear I am ridiculously funny when no one is watching me!
I had fun and hope that this was just the first of many improv shows in which I will be taking part. Next Tuesday, do yourself the favour of having a ridiculously good time with the gang from Crush. Only $5 cover and all the improv you can stand!
Tuesday Make-’em-ups with Crush Improv – every Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. – $5 cover – Cajun Attic (349 Dalhousie St.)