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Legacy Blog

Oldies but goodies from the archives of The Improv Conspiracy Theatre
Showing 11 to 20 of 103 results
Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Your inner critic is lying to you. You did it!

You just did a show! You did it. You did the thing. You were there, with your team, in that moment making something that didn’t exist before. You really did it!

I'd like you to allow yourself to get off stage happy with just the simple fact that you did a thing.

Was it great? Maybe, maybe not. Some people might think so, some might not. You might not. You might, but someone else in your team might not. You know what—who cares!? It’s ethereal and it’s gone now. "If it’s not easy, you're learning and that’s amazing” (Ward, J. 2017).  A so-called "bad" show, whether it’s just you or the whole damn theatre who thought it was bad, is no reason to be sad! There will be another one. And another... and another. You’ll get better, and better and better. 

I've had shows ruined by getting off stage and hearing someone on my team spitting fire at themselves, or worse, me, for the show being bad. Life is too damn short for that! I want to be great, I really do, I work at it every day, I obsess over improv all the time. I really give a shit about this art form. I truly find beauty in the process of improvisation: two humans interlocking and finding the show together in a moment is up there with my favourite things, ever. However, if I perform some real potent garbage, which I feel like I did as recently as last Saturday, I need to learn from it and I laugh at it. I learn nothing from hating myself for it. 

Scott Williams, a master Meisner teacher from the UK put it to me like this:

- Your inner critic is the loudest voice in every room. 
- Your inner critic lies to you.
- You believe it. 
- You can’t work while it’s talking to you. 
(Williams, S 2016)

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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

10 Tips for Approaching Your First Improv Class

So you finally did it; you faced your fears and booked an improv class. Good on you, honestly! Most people mull it over, then let their comfort zone win, so they never know what its like to have fun with their fear, and find joy in what scares them.

You're going to have fun, I promise. Along the way you'll also learn some invaluable life lessons just by turning up and paying attention. However, if you really want to get the most out of your class, here are some suggestions:

1. Take notes

Improv class doesn't really have any designated writing time (you'll mostly be on your feet doing fun stuff), but there are quite a few nuggets of wisdom on offer. Bring a notebook and pen, and jot down any sayings, expected learning outcomes, performance dates and things that confuse you. It will help with memory, and it's great to come back to at the end of term to see how far you've come.

2. Do the exercise in front of you

Most of your class time will be spent running different activities. There will be a few exercises and activities that might feel counterintuitive or like they don't fit into your expectations of improv. That's completely normal. I like to tell my students that improv is like playing a sport; in training you might do sprints, bench presses or other activities that train a particular muscle group, but do not appear to have anything to do with the game. The reason for this is that once you've strengthened those muscles, you will be able to execute the movements in the game more easily, and without thinking. As improv is open-ended, we can't teach you how to know what's going to happen in a given scene, but we can work the skills (muscles) that will help you make great choices in the moment on stage.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

You're not cool

I have always struggled with being incredibly uncool as a person. What do I mean by this? As the definition of uncool is "not fashionable or impressive", here are some examples of how I have been both exceptionally unfashionable and unimpressive:

1. When I was 11 years old I made handmade invitations for my wedding to Zac Efron and tried to slot them into the lockers of all year 5-8 kids. My best friend "forgot to print them for me", thank god.

2. In year 8 I forced my entire class to perform the finale dance to Camp Rock's "We Rock" while (a) I couldn't dance and (b) my very developed body flopped around in the front and centre while I wore a singlet as support for my unwanted bosoms. 

3. Just the other day someone mentioned that Christmas was coming around soon, and I exclaimed "Yay, it's almost time to play Hanson's Christmas album! 'Merry Christmas Baby' is my favourite."

Apart from my clear affinity towards Disney Channel teen stars and my obsession with Taylor Hanson, I am uncool in a lot of ways. Trying to be cool is my personal definition of uncool. That being said, I have fallen victim to the waste of time that is trying to appear "cool". Especially in improv.

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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

You're All You've Got

Reposted with permission from a recent Facebook post

You’re All You’ve Got - Apparently a Janis Joplin quote and something I've only just realised.

Every time I come across an artist that I like, I go through the same basic three-step emotional process:

1. This is great.
2. Why can’t I be great like this?
3. I’m not great.

I’m aware that it’s not the healthiest way to be, but I’m working on it. Back off. I’m also aware that what I’m about to talk about is not by any means a new revelation, or even a unique way to look at things. But it’s new to me. Back off. I’m also aware that people may completely disagree with me about this stuff. But I don’t disagree with me. Back off. Sorry. I love you.

Whether it’s a great song, a sketch, a drawing, a comic, TV or a movie, I always feel like there is some great secret that I’m not in on. Something that separates the real artists from the "try-hards" (because trying hard is lame). From all accounts, this doesn’t just go away - see Imposter Syndrome - but I find it very difficult to refute at my current level of output. I feel so frustrated because of this apparent disconnect between me and the artists I admire. What makes them real and me fake?

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Wheel of Feels

If you’ve taken an introductory improv class, odds are you’ve done some form of emotional expression exercise. If you’re like me, this generates two responses over time:

1. Abject fear (I never do this).
2. Surprising release (I never get to do this).

In doing this work, you’ve probably been limited by your teacher to a few “core” feelings. If you’re like me, maybe you responded in a further two ways:

1. Resistance: Why can’t I play “jealous” or “nervous?” That’s more fun.
2. Relief: Thank everything I don’t have to think hard about this.

Found the game yet? Learning often follows a pattern of resistance and release. Changing perspective makes inertia. I certainly felt (and feel) that whenever I do emotional work in scenes or with students. 

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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

How improv is changing my life

Lots of people ask me why I do improv. They’re probably just making conversation, but given this one-time hobby now takes up so much of my life, I take the question seriously. Up until recently I really did wonder if it was impacting how I behave in ‘real life’. I could see I was getting better at improv, but were there any useful side effects? 

I started being able to see what was going to happen next in sitcoms, but that’s not exactly a life skill. I learnt to ask people not what they ‘do’ but instead what they did outside of work that got them excited, and got rewarded with much more interesting conversations than your usual cocktail standards (watching a woman my age get excited about pottery was a sudden reality check of how bizarre I must seem when I talk about improv). Slowly I noticed my listening get a little better, as well as my memory, and observational skills.  I was getting funnier too. I could make my friends laugh more and, because of the lack of inhibition developed from performing, I could make strangers laugh too. They didn’t expect me to go to places I felt perfectly comfortable to go to. To be honest, they probably didn’t expect me to talk to them at all.  

But more recently, I’ve noticed some changes on a much more significant scale. Improv is helping me become my true authentic self.

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Friday, September 9, 2016

Form an indie team… now!

As an Australian improviser who’s just returned from the US, let me tell you, the improv scenes in the cities I went to (LA, Chicago & NYC) are terrifying. It really makes you realise how new and sheltered our community is when whole Harold teams at iO Chicago are regularly cut after only three months and hundreds of UCB improvisers are spending years auditioning repeatedly after they’ve finished classes in the hopes of finally making it onto a Harold team (if you haven’t seen this documentary about UCB auditions, check it out. It’s pretty crazy seeing a current SNL cast member having to work so hard for opportunities ). As the Improv Conspiracy grows, it will likely become more and more like these more mature communities where official opportunities are harder to obtain and performers have to make more of their own.

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Monday, August 8, 2016

The Truth Is...

In early improv classes we’re told that we’re all “artists, geniuses and poets” and that “improv is an art form”. It’s only been quite recently that I think I’ve actually started to understand this a bit more.

More and more, whenever I’m teaching, or in a scene, I’m looking for the truth. For me, it’s the truth of the character. It’s the truth of the scene. It’s the truth of the moment. It’s the “humanity” of the character, the sticky insides, the thing that makes them real, vulnerable. And I don’t mean vulnerable as in “weak”. Showing your underbelly isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength, of trust. 

We’re told that as improvisers, as artists, we get to say the things that regular people can’t say in real life. We get to be honest. We get to tell the truth. And when we do, it’s the truth that resonates with an audience. It’s the truth, that makes an audience go “ah man, I’ve been in that position, I wish I could’ve said that”. It’s that moment in Scream when Sidney punches Gale Weathers. We want her to. Then she does. Then we cheer. Would we have done that in real life? Probably not. That’s why we love it so much. Sidney does the thing we wish we could do in real life. Resonating with an audience like that, immersing them so deeply they believe you, is the best. 

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Monday, May 30, 2016

A Love Letter To My Bra – Thank You Crown Boy

For those of you know me, hello and I probably love you. To those who do not, let me introduce myself. I am a somewhat tall, loud, enthusiastic, goofy, optimistic female. To both parties (strangers and pals alike), here are some things you probably don’t know about me: I am quite an anxious person, and I struggle from ongoing chronic health problems such as arthritis, currently in the business of trying to diagnose whether I have an autoimmune disease or not, the world’s dodgiest knees/back, and as previously mentioned, some not fun anxiety times. 

Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to be a part of my first ever Improv Conspiracy Harold Team, Crown Boy. Alongside my fellow Crownies, I believe I have thrived in the TIC community, having learned so much about improv and about myself. But the main thing I have learned is about the importance of support. Yes, you’ve read articles about support and how “it is key in group work” and how “teamwork makes the dream work” and so on. This is all very true! But there seems to be an element I believe in much stronger, much deeper than just “team work”; friendship.

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Monday, May 2, 2016

Who's Open?

TRUST, and what we can learn from the 1990s Chicago Bulls 
From a lover of improv and a Chicago Bulls fan serving his confirmation bias

As I was listening to the Jon Favreau episode of Improv Nerd today, he brought up something that engaged me for obvious reasons. Today of all days, on the day my beloved Chicago Bulls were eliminated from the playoffs, he brought up Michael Jordan.

During the late '80s in Chicago the best basketball player of all time entered the league and suddenly the whole western world started paying attention to the sport. Jordan was electric, entertaining and just so damn talented. As Favreau notes - in the '80s, Jordan’s numbers were huge. He nearly averaged a triple double in his first five years around 30 points, 8 assists, and 8 rebounds. For basketball nerds, this is pretty great. But the Bulls still weren't winning. It wasn't until the early '90s when they did some recruitment and brought on a coach who changed the culture and put the focus on the team rather than the individual.

With this shift, Jordan's personal numbers went down, but the team’s went up. As you may or may not know, they went on to dominate the '90s winning SIX championships.

There are many individuals from that era whose names we may know: Charles "Round Mound of Rebound" Barkley, Karl "The Mailman" Malone, Gary "The Glove" Payton, Reggie Miller, Patrick Ewing, etc.  These are still considered some of the greatest players of all time but none of them won championships because they were up against a team they couldn't beat.   

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