Around The World: “THE SANDWICH THEORY” by Jacob Banigan

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
Jacob Banigan

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.

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Love. Life. Improv

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.

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What I’ve learned about Polish improv, by going abroad.

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.

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Most important rule of improv. Ohana.

As you may know, I’m lucky to be in Ohana, the international “Family” of improvisers. During our meetings and workshops I always have with me my Improv Notebook, in which I gather questions and answers about many improv topics. During our week in Slovenia, in september, we were talking about thing like, how to deal with the bad show, about the strangest and most horrible shows, about most common styles of improv in our countries, and much more.

We were also talking about improv rules. There are many, but if you had to choose just one, the most important for you, what would that be? I chose to write about this topic first, because I believe, and I always say, that there is no One And The Only Truth, and One True Improv. If you want to create, and not just re-create, you must search for your own way, and your own sensitivity. And only you decide, what’s most important to you. Of course, all of the below are great improvisers, learning all the time, and developing all of the skills. Take a look, in how many ways you can see basicly the same things.

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Improv practice #3 – How to start

“I will not jump into the water, until I learn to swim,” – said the fool.  / Julian Tuwim

You decided. You want to jump in and do improv FOR REAL. If you feel like it, don’t hesitate, it’s one of the best things you can do for yourself.

Suppose you are at the beginning of your journey – you made a decision, but you still don’t know how to organize the group. Now I’ll tell you what you should focus on, before calling the local comedy clubs. I know that enthusiasm is power, but hold your horses until you answer yourself a few questions. It is better to start a little later, and work together for 10 years, than to go with the flow and drop it after few months.

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Ohana means (improv) family.

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.

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Improv practice #2 – Crisis.

Improv is a great adventure. When you commit to it, you get satisfation, fun and developement. You egage with your emotions, in some way you fall in love. Everything is going smoothly, untill… right. Here comes the crisis. You write to me about it with fear. Keep calm. Do you break up after first fight?

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Improv practice #1 – Abuse.

This is the first article of a series IMPROV PRACTICE. It’s a result of my conversations with my improv students. We talk a lot, and they have many questions, doubts, ideas that they want to share. It doesn’t matter if they are improv nerds, or you just joined the class, the questions touch technical aspects, philosophy and art. I’m very glad, that they share them with me. And what I can do in return, is to share my thoughts. It’s not The Truth. It’s my truth, that I’ve been working on, and discovering, and it’s a process – in some time I may tell you something different. Because it evolves. Take whatever you find important. Share what you find important and exciting. There are lots of questions, but yesterday something very important appeared, and I cannot postpone it, so it will be the number one.

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Movies as perfumes.

– So, how was it?

The first question, after going out from the cinema. And if nobody asks, that’s a disaster for a movie, because there was nothing to talk about. When I was starting my directing school, I thought that the worst thing that could happen, is to make a bad movie. When people would talk about all the things, that were bad. But after school, I realised, that there is something worse. Make a flat movie, uninteresting one. Look at the credits at the end of every movie – even the worst one – hundreds of people worked on that! Director, people responsible for picture, sound, screenplay, cutting, producing, make up, music, food on set, driving, script, continuation, animal owners, kid’s parents, flat owners, there are even STAND-INs, people, who stand in front of camera, when the star wants to get a coffee or rest, but the lights need to be set for the scene. And hundreds more! And they are all working whole days to make it happen. Not only days. Weeks. Months. Of preproduction, filming, postproduction.

And when people walk out of the cinema, and instead of being shaken, they shake their arms, it’s a disaster. When people, instead of arguing if the movie was good, or bad, they have nothing to say.

On the other hand, sometimes we go out of the cinema in silence, becuase we don’t know what to say. Because we were thinking about the movie, and we didn’t know what to say, yet, we were processing it. We were still living it. In screenwriting classes they said, that you can make the simpliest movie, but if you make the audience FEEL the real emotions, you win. And that this is what cinema is about…

I’ve always had a problem with reviewing movies. IMDB with “stars” seemed awkward. “Good”? “Very good”? “Average”? “Great cinematography, but the potential of actors wasn’t used”? “10 for shaking me”?

And once I went to see the “Perfume” movie. A I realised, what my problem is. It’s not like I don’t know what to think. It just changes.

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Don’t do what you love.

“My father could have been a great comedian, but he didn’t believe that was possible for him. So, he made a conservative choice and instead he got a job as an accountant. When I was 12 years old, he was let go from that safe job. Our family had to do whatever we could to survive. I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which is that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”

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