I came back from the best improv week of my life. A few days after returning from Slovenia, I’m still thinking about it, and celebrating this fire in my heart. People ask me – what exactly is Ohana? And I think, and see images and feelings, trying to answer in one sentence. And you know what? It’s not that easy.
Ohana = the time that you book in the calendar even a year earlier. This three dates, when amazing improvisers from every corner of Europe, (in autumn and spring for the weekend, in the summer for a week) gather to work together, play, create, and exchange experiences. A better term would be “no-time”, because we all feel, being in Ohana, that only thing that exists is Here and Now, and the whole world disappears, and all the rush and all neurosis are gone. Now it’s also the time of the week, when we meet in a common place for all of us – the internet, to consult on Skype our ideas, problems and plans for the week and share the completed projects from the previous week.
Ohana = a place where up to thirty improvisers gather, work together, clean up, eat, sleep, and have fun. As in the summer camp, only without adults checking on us (and nothing is falling apart, because… we are adults), could it be better? And if there’s a lake somewhere around, or nice views to walk when discussing theoretical issues, it is the BEST.
Ohana = work. All members of Ohana are one of the most dedicated improvisers in their countries. Improv is their life, often improv is their work, they participate in many projects, have their own theaters, schools, they’re teaching improv. Ohana is a chance for all of us, that we don’t have in own countries, because it is something more – and we all want to use this gift as much as possible. Therefore, our time in Ohana is well organized, and every minute is scheduled. Anyone can propose a topic on which he would like to work – because they are interested in it, or has something to offer, or has a problem with something. And there are so many topics! In practical workshops, we worked, for example, on the long forms, side characters, “ghosts” of the scene, music impro, new exercises for workshops, repetition (is good!), spicing up the scenes. We even did improv in the water, Swimprov! We discussed topics such as self-organization as an improviser, the harrasment and abusing on stage, the most interesting formats we saw this year, combining impro with other fields of art, or how to work with difficult teenagers. For the first time also we started our mini-TED talks, thanks to Laura, and we had four little, 7-minutes talks, on the improv, and non-improv topics.
Ohana = support. You don’t have to pretend that you know everything. You may ask others, how they solved the problems, you are struggling with. You can ask, how to play a particular format. Or how to rehears only with two people. Or, how to work on self-confidence on stage. Or how to fix a broken website of your festival. You can also walk around, with a notebook, like me, and ask a thousand questions from my students to all imprvisers, and they were will focus to respond the best they can.
Ohana = fun. Frankly, even our work is fun. But sometimes we allow ourselves to have fun and don’t get to any useful and wise conclusions. Becuse of that, we had a Serious Attempt to Synchronized Swimming, which provided a very bizarre but funny entertainment to people on the shore of the lake. Another time, we did an evening attractions in our rooms, so in one of them, we played a disturbing role-playing game, in another we had the Simone birthday from 1994, in other we listened to horror stories of the building, or in the other we made videos using a pile of props from the table, or … we had Pet Therapy with kittens, that we hugged and cuddled (and out of the room you realised the kittens were also quite adult people). Fun is also Secret Friends project, who we were given at the beginning of the week, and it was our job to spoil them secretly, leaving puzzles, food, and doing pranks.
Ohana = a bigger picture. Literally and figuratively. Literally, because you work with people from all over the continent. Figuratively, because, for example, during our week we devoted one day as Non-Improv Creative Day. And so, this year with a group of Game Inventors, we created some party games, interactive, and one cardgame, which we want to publish! Fun fact – all of the games have in common, that you have to work with a partner (improvisers…), and all were based on the number 3 ( “Are we playing Harold on Non-Improv Day?”). At the same time, another group created, only with the things found in the forest, structures floating on the river, and another group was learning to dance lindy-hoop, by the lake.
Ohana = emotions. Acceptance. No judging. We take people as they are. It’s a joy, friendship, and adventures. It’s a trust, to the people, their experience, scene. It’s astonishment, that we found our little Utopia. It’s sadness when you have to say goodbye, and the flame we bring to our countries after charging creative batteries. It’s love. To the people, to creation, to having fun, to improv.
Ohana = people. They are brilliant improvisers, actors, teachers, organizers. But those are the only things that they DO in life. More important is, that these people are smart, sensitive, funny, playfull like children, supportive, ambitious. There is Victoria, who wants the sun, and we hugged sheep together. Stefan, who never forgets to mention, who is the most beautiful girl in the room (so all the girls could hear that at least once). There’s Snii, with her big eyes, who wrapped in a blanket looks like a character from Miyazaki’s movies. There’s Emppu, who builds the throne made of stones, and calles sheep from the mountains to destroy his throne. Alan, so silly, that you want to hug him. There’s Anne, who is the best Potzilla in Weed card game. There’s Dona and Ben, improv-newlyweds, so in love that you stare at them and smile. There’s Laura, who is not afraid of anything, and throws us into another, invented forms (as Tinder, as ghosts!). There’s Ollie, who watched over all of us, and I was putting on her bed (as my secret friend) strange Italian jokes translated into Italian in the google translator, and for who I kiednapped Alan. There’s Manu, who taught us the lindy-hoop dance. There’s Rahel, who bravely came to the family, jumping at once into the week with people she just met. There’s Simone, who has so much warm energy, that she would warm our house. There’s Sven, with his wise eyes, who is the most organized of us, and further feels that it is not enough. There’s Asia who doesn’t understand, that she is a cool kid and gives even more than she should from herself. There’s Ziga, the youngest of us all, who was coming out of the lake, and we were all singing “Beautiful Boy”. There’s Kasia, who is the best party girl of all of us. There’s Peter, with whom we invent distopian world, sitting in our little utopia. There’s Sara, my soulmate, my “pagan friend”. There’s Vid, who has big hands and big heart, and he does some mills on the river. There’s Timo, who sang with me at once French and Polish songs, lip-reading words, which we didn’t understand. There’s Noah, who learned to make charts, and gathered us together, to play in November in his city of Barcelona. There’s Jochem, whose name itself is fun for me, and who filled our time and our stage with music. There’s Alex, the only Englishman, who took care of us, speaking very simple English, and not flooding us with English eloquence. Julia, with whom we shared a wild joy of creating an exciting card game. There’s Flavien, who dances in front of your nose, in socks strained to his knees, when Peter says with broken accent, “he will make you happy, yes, 2 euros, yes.” And of course Mis and Boris, who were feeding us, and when we heard “food” we all ran screaming into the kitchen, like little children. Mmmmm Mis! Boooom, Boris!
Ohana means Family.
PS If you would like to join Ohana, and you are experienced improviser, from now till 15th november you can apply on our website: http://ohanaproject.eu/apply-to-join/