We just finished the fifth edition of a local Gdańsk Improvisers’ festival Podaj Padaj. Thanks to Inkubator Kultury Kulmiasto, Weronika Uziak and Wojtek Tremiszewski for the organization.
I will tell you about our local community – and it doesn’t matter, that it’s Polish Tricity (Gdańsk, Gdynia, Sopot), because maybe you’ll find yourself in it, no matter where you’re from. I’ll recall the post from this blog, with conclusions from the first edition of the festival from four years ago to see, what have changed, and what have not. I’ll recall the google-forms, that 27 groups or projects filled during last week, and why was that important. I will share with you some conclusions from the discussion I hosted after the festival, which was focused on ideas for the future, to let us and our community grow.
Back to the beginning – Podaj Pagaj (Gdansk festival) was created as a twin festival to the Podaj Wiosło (Polish festival) – the first one is happening in the spring, and is promoting groups from all over Poland, the second one is happening in autumn, and is promoting local groups. You could see shows by groups, but also different mixer shows.
Not going into too much details – four years ago there were 9 groups performing. After four years, 7 of these 9 don’t exist anymore. But this week I received 27 forms from groups or projects existing now (+ 3 jokes). Now we have groups, one-night-stands, we have trios, duos, solos in different styles and genres.
Four years ago we talked, that there was a difference between “old” improvisers, and “young” improvisers, so the first, and the second generation of local improvisers. Now we have the third generation, and if I can play around the concept of eras of local improv, that would be – the first era would be the time of the first (in Gdansk and more-less in Poland) group that I was in (over 10 years ago) W Gorącej Wodzie Kompani, and the first post-workshop group Grupa GIT, which was undermined back then. The second era would be when the first wave of “young groups” appeared, and some after-Kompani groups formed, and first “projects” (not groups, you know, affairs, not relationships) happened. And the third era would be after we started traveling abroad, to festivals, to learn different perspectives. I think that since then it doesn’t matter anymore, if you’re “the old one”, or “the young one”, but if you’re working, creating and growing, or you just chose one spot and you stayed there.
Four years ago we talked, that we should cooperate more, play together in jams, create projects, and somehow evolve together. Now we are exploring the concept of The House of Improv, where we all can regularly meet, and test in front of the audience our ideas, new formats, new teams, without the fear of failing and being judged. Where we can play together in mixer show, no matter which group, or no-group we are from – like, lately we performed a short-form-English-mixer-show, and now we want to do it regularly. For some time now there’s been going an idea called Time for Improv, where anyone could say “Hey, I took a workshop on object work and I can share some ideas”, or “I have an idea for a workshop”, and just do it for anyone who want to try it. Yesterday a lot of people were interested in bringing back some open jams, to just play short-forms together. We are also more and more brave in our ideas and bringing them to life, not only with our groups, but with castings specifically for ideas, like tomorrow there will be a Horror show put together by Kasia, with musicians, and techinicians.
During the discussion we appreciated the warm and open atmosphere of this year’s festival, different energies and formats on stage. For the future, we talked, how important is booking ahead, and informing groups, hosts, mixer teams, and club owners, that you want to work with them. That the communication is the key – to share ideas with organizers and letting them know, that if they need, you’re available to help (and then actually be). If you’re the organizer – to share with people, that you need help, to delegate tasks, and not try to do everything by yourself and not to get frustrated when you fail (because how can you think of everything). A lot of people are interested in participating in open jams, which we can bring back to late-night-festival-club. And, as Kalina said, if you are in charge of choosing the mixer cast, pay attention to balancing genders. Also some of the people would like to have a chance to take workshops during the festival.
We were discussing the ways to reach the audience, to bring new people to improv shows. Tymon pointed, that we have the local FB fanpage – Impro Trójmiasto, and the group with the same name, and we have a messenger chat with admins of all the local groups’ FB pages, and we don’t use that much. Radek said, that our descriptions are problematic for non-improv people – and he encouraged to be bold, and clear in descriptions – not to confuse people with “you may laugh, but you may also be touched, or cry, we don’t know what will happen”, but say “this will be funny”, “this will be an emotional drama”, or “games like Whose Line”, so people would understand, what they can expect. Sławek said, that he’d like to know, who is our audience member – who’s our target exactly? Can we take a look at questionnaires that were filled after previous festivals? Do you ask the audience to fill some forms after your shows? Tadek said, that FB is not the only source of information for people – you can print fliers with the show schedule for next 3 months, and put them in cafes or libraries. That you can add the event to the local portal trojmiasto.pl calendar. That you can print posters, and do some actions around the city. Łoja said, that maybe we could record some videos that would promote not a group, not a show, but improv in general, because most of the people have no idea, what improv is. Kiedro asked Termos, if posting clips from his solo shows help to bring new audience – he said that not really, the place has it’s own audience anyway, but he prefers to share “moments that he experiences” more than pieces of shows. Someone said, that in Klub Komediowy in Warsaw they kinda stop calling events “improv”, but more like “the drama of a corporate worker”, to give the audience something they can understand, and connect immediately. Tadek said, he can also share his technical experience with light and recording shows, and proposed creating a tech-team, to make our shows more professional. Krzyś pointed the dream situation where we would have a dedicated improv place, improv theatre to play regularly, and then we wouldn’t have to promote each and every separate show by every group, but we could promote the place, where the audience would know that they can go anytime, and find some improv. Kalina said it would be also nice to have some space to just organize rehearsals and workshops whenever we need. She also said an interesting thing – that among us there are also introverts, who are not that brave and open in contacting people they don’t know closer, so it’s hard to ask potential teachers, if they don’t know what teachers are offering – so it would be nice if teachers posted somewhere what kind of classes they can offer. (My workshops for example you can FIND HERE: http://rozalska.com/index.php/en/workshops/, as always).
We discussed, what is the “Tricity school of improv”, and the conclusion was, that we don’t need “one improv school” (for the record, the main source of workshops in our community is me teaching 4 groups a week at the University of Gdańsk, which has been growing for 12 years now), but what we need more is a one platform to work together and explore improv, and this may be fulfilled by the House of Improv action. Also we said, that “one improv school of the city” can be a trap, because we can immediately see, that a group comes from a specific school, and they may have a good quality, but no vision for themselves. It’s not the teachers’ fault – they are teaching their vision, and what they do best, but it’s group’s job to work on themselves and look for their own path. I always encourage students, since first class, to explore the world, to learn from different teachers, I send them articles from around the world, I share perspectives of different teacher that I learned from – but I’m not gonna talk about my visions here, you can READ ABOUT THEM HERE. Mateusz said that Tricity’s improv is eclectic and that we really want to learn from different sources, and he pointed Igor as a person who is full of energy when it comes to organizing workshops with teachers from different cities. I can add, that we are more and more present at the festivals, not only around Poland, but around the world, where we learn and bring that home. Kaczmar was worried, that there is not many local groups performing this year at Polish festivals, but Emilia also pointed, that there was a lot last year, so maybe it’s just it. I think there is no need to worry, just work on our projects, and it will pay off in the future.
I would like to underline something, that may be a sign of another era starting, potentially important for the whole comedy genre in our country. Several improvisers took a comedy writing workshops, and they started experimenting with writing, and performing sketches. Why do I find it important? Because I think, that right now we have 3 pillars of live comedy in Poland, and it’s improv, stand-up and cabaret (I don’t know if you call it the same, you know, sketches). Cabaret has a bad reputation lately, because what we can see on tv is filled with stereotypes, and it’s mostly terrible and shallow. But it’s not the fault of the art form, but what content we put in it, same with stand-up and improv. And if we combine the skills, and add some screenwriting, we may change one day how comedy films look like, which would be my dream, as a graduate of film directing. And as one of the teachers said in Film School – “everyone wants to do comedy, but nobody knows how”. That’s why I encourage – write, perform, promote, invite improv people for scripted shows, let’s support that idea too! Who knows, maybe one day we’ll change the face of comedy in our country.
The last point, shortly, because it’s already a long article is the google-forms that I asked groups to fill. There was quite a lot answers “It’s a tough question”, or “We don’t know” to questions “What inspires you?”, “What do you find funny?”, and there were some general answers to “What is most important in improv to you?” and “What is the characteristics of your improv?”. That’s why I’d like to motivate groups, and all of us, to take some time to think – now, or once in a while – why do we do this. What do we want from improv? What do we want for improv? What is our dream improv? What do we want to watch? What do we want to show? What makes improv ours? What makes us know what to write in our descriptions to make the audience understand what we do? Because – now, and forever – the consciousness is the foundation of choice.
Let’s create, do our thing and support each other.
And what do you do to help your local community grow? Share! Let’s get inspired!