Have your own brain.

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.

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9 types of people coming to improv workshops.

Soon it will be october again. New academic year. Even when you don’t study anymore, autumn has someting… settling in it. Holidays are over, sun is gone (well, in Poland). And we make new resolutions. Like a pre-New-Years-Resolutions. I’ll sign up to a gym. I’ll sign up to improv workshops.

I think, that it’s always a good a decision – but do we all make it for the same reasons? After years of teaching i realised, you can divide most of the people in 9 groups. The list inspired by real people, but still fictional 🙂

1. I watch improv shows, I admire what you do, but I don’t think I could do this.

“I wanted to come a long time ago, but I was to shy. I have my favourite improv games, and I know the groups in my city. Improv is cool. I’m having so much fun watching it. How can you think so quick? I could never do that. But suddenly I got the courage, maybe because my friends took the workshop, so I thought – if normal people can go, maybe I can go?” – This type developes in it’s own time. Sometimes doing very quick and huge progress, when stops critising itself. Paying attention – listening to feedback, worrying about them, but always getting a little better with every step. Always has thoughts about the scenes, sometimes says them out loud.

2. I watch improv shows and I’m 100% sure, I would do it better.

“I know improv, I watch it, it’s cool. I know Whose Line, I know stand up comedy, I write a little myself, I go to open mikes. And what this guy is improvising now on stage – I would do it better. And two scenes ago, with the western, I would say – meet me in high noon. That would be something, right?” – This type comes to workshops with huge confidence. And gets slapped in the face with first scene. He says something – people don’t laugh – he gets confused. He panics, goes into vulgar – sexist – low jokes, and after leaving the stage, he realises there was another person with him. Usually, after the first shock, this type reorganizes his vision of improv, and slowly gets to understand, that it’s not about making jokes. And is some time can play good scenes with partners.

3. I want to be an actor, and I’m looking for theatical workshops.

“I’m preparing for exams to acting school. I’ve played scripted off theatre with Mister Y and Miss X. I want to do more. Maybe improv can be useful in the exams.” – This type is very cute and inspired. Between scenes says Shakespeare quotes, or other literature that he reads before exams. On stage often can move, and sing, and tries to use those skills. In the beginning he’s a bit concerned by the lack of a script, that he could hide behind, but also plays like a child with improv.

4. I’ve heard it’s gonna be funny. I’ll take my friend with me.

“We just had a integration with my sociology group, I had two beers and my friend said he’s going to improv workshop, and it will be funny, because he’s going to improv shows and he knows. I’m definitely not going on stage, but I will laugh at people. And definitely I’m not going alone!” – This type just sits there. Doesn’t want to do warm ups, but has to. Talking to a friend a lot. In the end, isn’t really happy, because thought it would be more like a show. Won’t come back.

5. My friend told me to come, because she didn’t want to come alone.

“I didn’t plan to come, but my friend asked me to go with her. Now she’s talking to me all the time during excercise, and I can’t focus. I’m a little embarraced, but I want to participate. I just played a frog, I din’t know I could do that, it’s fun.” – This type observes, sometimes walk away from the person who dragged her here. From all the people, she might stay in improv for years – like me.

6. If I don’t get up from my desk, I’ll lose my mind.

“I don’t want to perform, but from 8.00 till 17.00 I’m sitting at work, on my computer, and I will go crazy if I don’t do something with people, and try something different. Hey, I see improv workshops at my Technical University, ok, and then I can hang out with guys.” – This type always understands the rules and never breaks them. If he’s not the silent guy, he makes jokes that I don’t understand, but all the IT and math guys are laughing. He’s having fun during workshop, sometimes brings friends to another workshops. Has never done anything connected to theatre, but is improvising well – even when he stand back to the audience, and is talking quitely.

7. I don’t know how to talk to people. I don’t like myself.

“I have no confidence at all. I’m scared of people, but I need to talk to them in my job. I used to be crazy and funny, like you, and then I went to work, time passed… and now I don’t even like myself. I want to be the old me again.” – Those are the words of three people combined into one character. They said it in the first workshops, in front of the group. I have a lot of respect for this type, how much of self-consciousness and being aware of own fears they need to come to improv? This type is very patient, the hardest part was to come for the first time, and then he’s working, doesn’t worry about mistakes, fixes them, goes ahead, developes. This type changes a lot in private life because of improv. I admire him, and I’m happy for him.

8. I’m a leader.

“Feedback, deadlines, coaching, results – I know all of it. I take care of a big organisation, I learn, I can be the president of the world. Can I get a certificate after the workshop?” – This is the business type. Another course, another paper. Searching for innovation, and wants to be a one step ahead of the rivals. During workshops he discover, that he doesn’t always need a plan and try to sell his ideas, to comunicate to other person. Looses his tie and discovers, that sense of humour, honesty and feeling free don’t push him away from business, but bring him closer to Richard Branson.

9. I love Whose Line!

“I know all the seasons, my roommate can’t listen to it anymore, but what can I do, when something reminded me of Wayne singing a song about a bus, I had to see it, and when I did, I had to watch Colin and Ryan talking about Cuba and tapioca. I love Ryan, I want to be like him. I’ll do my best.” – This type has best fun, imitating his idols. He’s best compliment is being compared to Whose Line. He’s trying very hard to be funny, because the program is. It takes a long time for him to understand, that reality is better than youtube. After some time, he becomes himself.

 

I’m the type 5 – when I was in high school, I saw with my friends a poster in school, telling about theatre workshops. We went there after school, my friends wanted to go to improv – I didn’t, I was to scared, but I went with them. After few weeks, all of them resigned. And I’m still here.

And now you – have a little fun, and tell me, what type are you? Maybe the 10th?


5 scenes that every improviser has played.

Every year, when I start the workshop season after summer and see new people at te workshops, I can’t help to see the patterns, that we have in our brains. Especially, when it comes to using your body, even in this basic game of Freeze. Of course, when you are just starting your improv adventure, every scene is new and exciting. And in some time you start to dig dipper than your first thought.

So, I can bet, that especially in Freeze played by beginners, you will find those 5 scenes – obviously, everybody needs to play them at least once in a lifetime:

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