Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: Improvention (Page 1 of 2)

Match made in improv

I got the Save-the-date in my inbox a couple of days ago and when I looked at the gorgeous, silly, ridiculous pic that my friends had chosen it was obvious. These were the fun guys. These were the cool ous. These were the cheeky clever ones. And I was so happy again because they are getting married. I am talking about my lovely friend Candice D’Arcy, and her Oz beau Mark Gambino.

This is the story of how they met, according to me, and why I totally adore the fact that they found each other and are good together. I take full responsibility for embellishing the story to make my point. This is my version of their story. (I have asked permission to write about them, in case you got nervous.)

In 2012 Candice D’Arcy, Tandi Buchan and I decided to travel literally half way around the world to participate in an improvisation festival, Improvention, in Canberra, Australia. I had seen the festival on facebum and decided that I really wanted to go, and Tandi and Candice were also very keen. And so we went. It was our first real exposure to improv outside our own little company (aside from the few workshops we had had from people like Joe Bill) and our heads improded with it all. It was life changing for me, and more so for Candice, who had been spotted by Melbourne improviser (the guy who we all thought was beyond amazing in Jason Geary’s long form improv format Fat City).

Anyway, the details of how they hooked up, made it work, had a long distance relationship, are in a long distance engagement, and are soon to be married shall remain theirs.

What really excites me about their story is that they are both improvisers. Now I am projecting here, but I am convinced that the rules (if you can call them that), skills and habits of improvisers are the best ones to use in relationships. These habits and character traits are the exact opposite of those of actors (even though there are some in common, like showing off, loving an audience, enjoying success), and they are all relationship building habits. And they work.

Here are a few of them in no particular order.

1. Yes, let’s. This is a silly, lovely warm up game, and a philosophy. It is the response. Now, close your eyes and say this as the answer to every offer (no, not ever the disgusting ones). So often we write negative scripts in our lives because we default to the no. We are used to it. Improvisers are trained into the yes, let’s of games, and it spills over into live. It is the best default ever.

2. Listening. The most important thing to do in improv is to listen. You have no idea what’s going to happen next and you need to make sure you hear what your team mates are saying and doing. Really listen, without waiting to answer. Really hear. To do that you have to be present, open and available. Now take those three things and bring them to a relationship and suddenly beautiful things happen.

3. Make your partner look, feel and sound brilliant. In improv it’s no good if you are the hero and the rest of your team are in the shadow of your singular brilliance. You are brilliant when your whole team shines, and that is your intention; to make everyone in your team be the absolutely most brilliant they can be. That’s when the magic happens. In relationships if you are always wanting that for your partner, wanting them to be the best that they can be, you won’t (often) go to the place of jealousy, need and blame.

4. Be on the same team. Improv (unless it is one man improv) is teamwork. Bang goes for relationships.

5. Have fun. If you aren’t, you are doing it wrong. Both.

6. Roll with them punches. One of the best things about improv is that you have to expect the unexpected. When you are making things up the world is fun, exciting and unpredictable. You take what you get and make that lemonade. In relationships, I have heard the experts say that predictability is death. I wouldn’t know, since nothing about my life, work or world is. And this is great in relationships too. Be ready for anything, and you will always be amazed, surprised and delighted.

7. A sense of humus.

8. Feel the love. One of my favourite things about improv is when you are in the groove, and it’s easy and joyous and delicious. That usually happens when the audience, you, and your team mates come together in that magical place. On the one hand you make it, on the other, you receive it.

A litany of Thank Yous

And I don’t mean it in the Ozzie “How youse doing?” kind of way. I am just over 24 hours away from making the long trek home to the loving arms of Big Friendly, the warmness of good friends and family, the complicated heart pullings of a home city and country that inspires, frustrates, irritates, placates, enrages and draws me, and my life that I left behind. Before I get swallowed and absorbed by the many daily things that swamp a life back home I wanted to reflect on the people that have made this most extraordinary journey what it has been for me. Be warned. It is a long list (and if you are not on it, it doesn’t mean I don’t adore and value you passionately.)

First up I want to name and honour my guy, Big Friendly. I have been loved and supported in every possible way by him, and he made this whole trip possible. He is what makes me a lucky fish. Big Friendly, it has been far too long without you, my hero, friend, confidante, go-to-guy and home-fires-burning partner. Next time we go together.

I want to honour and love my amazing fellow travelers Tandi Buchan and Candice D’Arcy. With them we were the magical Team SA, and we achieved the improv version of Olympic Gold for ourselves. We shared a room at the YHA during Improvention, we shared a room at Patti’s house, and Candice and I shared a room at cousin Nicky. Intense. We played, ran workshops, partied, supported, nit picked, discussed, laughed, jolled, and had the absolute best time ever, and I am so happy we shared it. Magical Moments with Benny the buck toothed Koala, jumping photographs, fetta (that’s how they spell it here in Oz) pies, karaoke (shits me up the wall), excellent improv and the making and sharing of other magnificent new friends. It deserves to be said that doing a trip like this is outrageously expensive and taxing; particularly for these two travelers who had children at home, and I want to say bravo to both of them. We have tons of thrilling work ahead, putting into practice everything we got madly excited by.

The organisers, makers and doers of Improvention are next up. What a phenomenon. Nick Byrne, I have no idea how you got us there, three unknown Seffefrican improvisers on a mission, and you will always be my hero for doing so. Improvention was completely awesome, necessary, amazing, inspiring and wild. Ben Crowley and Cathy Hagarthy, organisers, improvisers, home-sharers, lift-givers, and all round amazingnesses you made us feel welcome so comfortable even though we were jet lagged zombies without a clue, and you both had fifty million things to do. The rest of you Improvention organiser type peeps like Reid, Kathy, Brad, PJ and all the others I haven’t mentioned, I know what you did. And thank you. Thank you performers, workshop leaders and directors. I watched, played, workshopped, slept, ate and loved impro(v) all over again, and more. Last on this list is Chris Allen, who was responsible for Mission Roo, and who completely fulfilled this quest, in style. The reality is, if it wasn’t for Improvention, we wouldn’t have come, and my love affair with Oz would never have happened.

Then it was Melbourne and her magic. Patti Stiles; guru, inspiration, hilariousness, fire maker, bird feeder, Quokka hostess, home supplier, map drawer, advice giver, story teller, love machine, music sharer, tour organiser, and all round most amazing. There are no words to thank you enough. I miss you like an oldest friend. Impro Melbourne; you guys, the whole lot of you are possibly my favourite people on earth. Thank you ALL for love, sharing, lifts (David and Kevin and Katherine and Caitlin more especially), partying, eating and drinking, workshopping, and for Exploding Heads (Myron and Josh in particular) for letting us play with you. Thanks Impro Melbourne for letting us do Jill Bernard workshops with you all, and allowing the Improvention festival continue.

Jill and Eric I love you both so much. You were the perfect traveling hook ups and you were best fun, big chats, total hilariousness, tea (Eric) obsessed, gung-ho, crazy, kind, brilliant, silly, dingo-loving partners in Oz travelingness. Here’s the thing; I have a very good idea of all things Austin, Texas, and no clue about Minnesota. I love your improv, your energy and your insights. Thanks for the big, fat share.

My Sydney week has other special thank yous attached. First up, Ange Hume, for taking in a complete stranger. Thank you most gracious lady. To old friend Heather and even very old friend Jenny; it was amazing reconnecting with you, however brief, and I am sorry we didn’t get to do it again. Next time? I can’t imagine not coming back. The biggest, most loving and delicious thanks goes to The Segerman fandamily for unbridled hospitality – Oz style. Every last thing; delicious food, lifts, tour guidage, amazing open house, smoked fish, fabulous stories, Madiba’s birthday, Celebrity TheatreSports, an amazing massage, gorgeous, warm, loving children and sharing your new home in the best, clearest, warmest way. I love you. But, let’s get down to brass tacks, or salted caramel. I owe you my best gelato experience ever. And that is totally huge. My life is changed by Gelato Messina, in both a good way (best ever) and bad way (there is none where I come from).

Maleny, you are so magnificent. B and R I often felt like you guys were living where I should be. Thank you for sharing that. It was profound.

And now, as I sit and write this in Brissie, on my last full day here in Oz, I thank Wade Robinson and Suzie and Chloe, for taking me in at such short notice and being such gracious, open and delightful hosts. Improvisers of Oz, you are a very special kind of loving somebody. And I love you all right back.


Impro Junkies

So last night I jumped from performing a Maestro (which I completely loved) straight into a wild, huge cast for an I Jump You Jump (which was insane and enormous Jill Bernard fun fest). Two chances to perform on the same night! I was so very, completely happy.

Jamie Robertson, who played with us in Cape Town in our early days, arrived from Melbourne yesterday, and it was great to see him, off stage and on. He had his appendix eaten out of him by a monkey puppet doctor. All in a day’s work.

Suddenly it feels like Improvention is hurtling towards its inevitable end and I am already starting to panic. This is what happens when you live, breathe sleep, speak and play impro for a week.

Today I am doing a Giving and Receiving Notes workshop with impro guru Patti Stiles. She really is the most loved woman in impro and people walk around with Patti Stiles smiles. Then, tonight I am going to be performing in Locker Room, a format that we explored in Glenn Hall’s workshop. I’ll probably write about how they were tomorrow.

We hold our final workshop tomorrow morning. I can’t believe it.

Words, Inspiration, Magic at Improvention

Yesterday was inspiration day. It started with me attending Tim Redmond’s workshop Words, Words, Beautiful Words. Essentially, it was an impro workshop using books and authors as inspiration and reference to create, colour, inform and even base scenes and formats on. It was pretty mind boggling for me and I was reminded of that crazy head opening feeling of a class at drama school. I loved the work; mainly watching others make interesting choices. I felt I had passionately over committed to my chosen book and author, which left me waging a war of honour on their behalf. I think I might have had more crazy fun if I had held them a little less preciously, and that’s what’s so hard about trying to fit all this stuff into a 3 hour workshop.

One of the best things about being in a workshop environment is watching others work, both at facilitating and participating. It’s a very levelling experience, and it reinforces all the philosophies of impro. Omigodz I’ve become an impro evangelist. Not like I wasn’t before, only now I have no idea who I am going to do all this stuff to, with and for when I get home.

Then, we saw two great formats of impro shows. First up was Sink or Swim, in which four pairs play out scenes. At the end of the first round of scenes the players pitch what could happen in a future scene and the audience votes to lose one of the pairs. So on, until the last pair’s resolution happens, with the help of the others. Last night’s swimmers were the Austenesque Matilda and Flora and the intimate details of their period lives (although I so badly wanted to see the stalked backpacker and her German friend in six different countries).

After interval we saw show from nothing. Exactly that; a few random scenes, some following on, some not, to build an evening of magnificent impro entertainment. I loved it. I loved the scenes with poor Martin, and his crazy wife, friend and boss. I loved the weird dance scene between the two French crazies. And I loved the relationship and marriage scenes that were played out by Sophia the messenger.

Once again this week I have been delighted, inspired, challenged and made so jealous. I love this shit.

Hang over 1 at Improvention

It was bound to happen, and I’m pleased it took this long actually. But the three of us are all in stages of worse for wear after a releasing indulgence in Oz beer last night.

Yesterday we ran our second workshop; totally different from the first even though our content was the same.  Then, last night Tandi was asked to play in a “Whose line is It Anyway” style show at the Hellenic Club called Shnitz and Giggles and we went to watch. It’s quite a thing being thrown onto stage with a bunch of people you have never played with and whose references are totally different, but she was really awesome.

After that it was time to drink and socialise. And that is exactly what we did.

Official improvention Day 1

With a certain amount of nerves (we had performed with some stellar improvisers the night before) Candice, Tandi and I went off to take our first 3 hour long workshop of the festival yesterday morning. It was pretty cool, very cool actually; with a variety of level of improvisers in the group of 20. And feedback on the ground was really good.

Then we went to attend our first workshops. Candice did an improv for film one and Tandi and I were delighted by Jill Bernard and her Small Cute Improv workshop. Improv is all about energy, and that’s what Jill is. She reminded us all about why we love improve, and how the traps of cynicism and criticism are pointless when you are just making stuff up. So good for me, in particular, to remember.

And then we were witness to a treat. Fat City; Melbourne’s long running, serial Film Noir improvisation show. Honestly, I haven’t been that taken up, and jealous and excited and moved in an absolute age. These awesome performers play the same characters and constantly develop the relationships between them. I fell in love; with the idea, the format, the characters, the players, the content and even the curtains, who, it was pointed out, got tired, in a scene that went on a bit too long.

This morning we are going to the opening address, then running our second workshop, then going to an improv jam this evening. I am beside myself with the idea that we are part of this tribe of improvisers, doing only this for a whole week. And then, our new friends are ready to show us the Oz world of improv in Melbourne and Sydney. We are in improv heaven.

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