There’s one month left to Mt. Olymprov Festival in Athens, Greece, and you can expect pretty big crowd of Polish improvisers. It’s not the first time, when we’re going somewhere with such a big group. I’ve heard several times positive things starting with “You, Polish people in festivals…” so I decided to give it a closer look. From the inside, and from the outside, with bigger context of different cultural behaviours. Below you can see the examples based on majority, of course. That may have nothing to do with you. You can make an alternative list. Now. Question. From 1 to 12, how do you fit Polish Style?
I’m sitting in a beautiful theatre, during Polish film festival in Gdynia, waiting for another film to start. I’m here every year, for whole week, to see what’s going on in Polish cinema. Untill now I’ve seen, among others, oil painted film „Loving Vincent” about Van Gogh, a scientific film „Photon” about evolution of life and DNA since the big bang, about universe chemistry and physics, „Spoor”, very lovely, and dark picture of crime surrounded by animals by Agnieszka Holland, that may get an Oscar, „Panic attack”, a few connected stories about people on the edge of losing control. Very different movies. How is it connected to improv? Just a second.
This festival is strongly connected to my Gdynia Film School, where I was studying directing. I’ve been working with various, very experienced directors, actors, screenwriters, etc. Each of them had own artistic vision and philosophy. And we had exams, where we had to show our films. And during that, all of them were sitting in a row, watching. And giving notes after. You think you would get one answer? No. From the point of view of CRAFT, yes, they mostly agreed. But from the point of ART, you received all different feedback. And even if you’d like to please all of the teachers – it’s impossible.
And that was a great lesson for improv.
I smile silently when I hear that someone thinks he OWNS THE TRUTH. Knows the right way. I also smile silently when I hear that someone plays „slow improv”, because it’s true improv. Only Harold, because it’s The Improv. Or that there is one definition of improv that we all have to follow.
I rise my brows silently, when in the workshop (that I participate, or teach, doesn’t matter) someone comments „But <this cool famous teacher> said this <other thing>”.
What I want to say is HAVE YOUR OWN BRAIN.
When I asked Menelaos if he’d like to write something for me, he knew right away, what would that be about. Community. How surpiresed I was, when I got the complete text not after a month, but the next day. But then I thought – why was I even surprised? When you’re a person, who brings improv to your country, build it from scratch, and after only five years has own company, venue and second edition of international Mt.Olymprov festival in Athens… you know the value of the community. I’m glad I could be a part of that festival, to feel the Vibe, to learn, and to perform with this inspiring Greek – and I can say, it was the best community atmosphere I’ve ever experienced at the festival. I couldn’t agree more with Menelaos and I’m really glad, I can publish his article now, just before starting the new season – and I hope that Polish community will pay attention and make plans together for next year, and grow stronger!
“DO YOU LOVE THE COMMUNITY AS MUCH AS YOU LOVE THE ART FORM?”
Have you given any thought to how important community is for the growth and evolution of the art of improvised theatre? Being part of the core team that has been trying to create a community in Greece from the ground up, I have become a firm believer that it has the power to make or break Improv as it grows, both for me and as a whole.
There are days, when you feel worse than anyone? Or just a bad version of yourself? Or you wanted to try something new, but the voice inside was blocking you? I’ll tell you, what is the problem.
A few months ago I had a long conversation with Davide, about how different we can experience improv, when we are on stage, and when we are in a workshop room. The discussion was very intriguing, and Davide told me a story, why he quit performing improv. I asked him to write it down and let me translate and publish it on this blog, for Polish improvisers. And that was the first idea of Around the World series. And I’m really glad, that Davide wrote that text for me. When you are in Milan, Italy, go to see his Teatribu, to see how amazing, emotional, and phisical Italian improvisers are.
WHY I QUIT PERFORMING
It’s been a couple of years since I quitted doing improv shows. I’ve been improvising for 15 years and I had several crises, as in every long and solid story, and then I came back stronger than ever on my steps. But this time, this crisis, was different. It was longer and it was relieving. I feel better now.
There are many reasons why I’m not performing anymore, but I can easily sum it up in one sentence: I’m not having fun anymore.
I obviously wondered about this lack of enthusiasm, and I thought that when you do something a lot, even if it’s wonderful as improv is, and, most of all, when a huge passion becomes your job, enthusiasm has to slow down a little.
But in my teaching path I had doubts, crisis, pain, difficulties, but never a fall or a willing to quit. So what’s happening?
– You have one minute to introduce yourself. The other person doesn’t care where you work, what schools you’ve graduated, but what kind of a person are you, and what you can offer him. / marketing conference
Improv is usually outiside of the comfort zone. Not only you’re in a spotlight, in front of people, who judge you. Even harder is that they don’t judge Julia Capuletti, Snow White or Marilyn Monroe. You cannot hide behind any story, any director, any script. It’s just you. And the audience reads you. It can be scary.
Ok, but you’re doing it. You’re improvising. You’ve come a long way with your inner critic, through all the bad jokes, weird looks of your family, bacause instead of doing someting serious, you’re fooling around.
You become more open, you get the punchlines. You are funny, you can talk to anyone. At the parties you are in the center of attention. Oral exams are easy, even when you don’t know much. You can make it. When you go with the flow, everything is easy, even the mean lady at the post office cannot do you any harm, when you release the tension with a nice joke. You like yourself. You tell people, that you do improv, comedy. They nod their heads saying “That explains it all.”
Well, it doesn’t.
Improv doesn’t define, who you are.
Who you are, defines improv, that you do.
“Think, who should you be to have the right to speak to the people from stage?” – I’ve read in a magazine, lying on the beach, during my non-improv-vacations. I sighed heavily, because what kind of vacation is this, when the idea came to my blanket and I now is sending me kisses.
This sentence was recalled by the actress, in an interview. She heard it from the professor, while studying in acting school. And that is the first question I would like you to think about.
I warn you. In this text there’ll be more questions than answers. And it’s your job to answer. To yourself.
I always say, don’t stay in your backyard, open to the world. But I know it may not be easy. That’s why I’m bringing a little world to your backyard. From today and now on, here on my blog, I’ll be publishing guest articles written by great improvisers and teachers from all over the world. The first goes amazing Jacob Banigan from Canada/Austria, who I had the pleasure to work with in Barcelona. Articles will be available in English and, what is the point, translated to Polish. Are you happy? 🙂 Have fun. And learn. Feel free to discuss and share your own ideas!
THE SANDWICH THEORY
Let’s consider an Impro Show to be a Sandwich.
Picture any sandwich you like.
Food is layered between bread on a plate in front of you. OK?
That’s the show. Each impro show is made up of LAYERS, whether we are aware of them or not. If we are aware of the layers, we can better play with them to enhance our experience.
And although each layer is tasty in it’s own way, you can’t separate them and consume them one after the other, like a weirdo. They really must all be experienced together in each bite. That’s how we do it.
Moment to Moment, Bite for Bite.
You have arranged your life, your time and money with a plan to consume this experience. But before we eat it, let’s look at what it’s made of.
You’re a Single improviser. Just broke up after long relationship. It hurts when your ex starts new project before you. You feel free, but you don’t know what to do. You meet exciting new people and start some affairs, projects, maybe one night stand, maybe something more. You are very excited, following the adventures. You’re blooming, you’re on fire, creative, sexy, intelligent. Sometimes your experiments are disappointing, but you can forget about them quickly. If you want, you can have different affair in every city, like a sailor.
But it can be exhausting. You travel, you bring all the experience back, and suddenly you feel, that you have no one to share it with. Of course, you have your kids, your students, that you are taking care of, and they are always waiting for you to come home, and teach what you’ve learned. But you have your kids in your school. And you get back to your empty house, and you feel lonely.
It’s been a year since I joined Ohana, an international group of improvisers from all over Europe. We meet three times a year, to work together, to develop, and to build a network across the Old Continent. In the meantime, I had the pleasure to participate in two international festivals, to perform and learn – BIG IF in Barcelona, and IMPRO Amsterdam.
I opened the gate of my backyard and discovered that the world is very big.
But I don’t exactly want to talk about what I saw on the other side of the gate, but what I saw in my backyard, looking from the other side of the fence. So – how I looked at the Polish improv from the distance and what I’ve learned.