Montreal’s great festival tradition continues with MPROV: the 5th Annual Montreal Improv Festival, October 6th-9th. Improvisers from New York City, Denver, Toronto, Montreal and Winnipeg will be converging at Mainline Theatre, 3997 St-Laurent. Shows and workshops!
I’ve been organizing and teaching my own improv workshops in Montreal for a little while now and I’m expanding to three levels of experience. This month, Brent Skagford and I are teaching an intermediate/advanced class at the OFF space on St-Laurent. On Thursday, July 24th at 8pm, there will be a FREE showcase at OFF where the students will demonstrate their incredible skill, so come on down and be dazzled! For August, I’m organizing a BEGINNERS class, so if you’re interested in getting on board the improv train, now would be a good time. You can check my website for more information.
Bad Dog performance part II. Sean, Nick and I took to the stage again tonight. Sean ended up giving both monologues tonight (what a guy!). The first was about arsonists and the second was about, Skara Brae, a Scottish town in the Orkney Islands. The first monologue inspired a story about a man, newly arrived in Goofytown, who was only interested in normal things, but on the advice of his wife decided to try to broaden his horizons. The second story was an epic one, indeed. Two cousins, one a roman senator, the other an outcast rebel, both bent on destroying all the glass in Rome. The last story, inspired by the second monologue, was multi-tiered. It started with two brothers in wind-swept Scottish cottage enjoying Mother’s Soup debating the legitimacy of words. Next, the story moved to a graffiti-ist carving a name onto the statue of Ste-Brunhilde. Swiftly, we moved to the story of Ste-Brunhilde who, we discovered, produced potions to bring sinners into God’s Flock. We moved back to the carver and then back again to the brothers who were really quite peeved that their day of boardgames was being interupted by the fact that they had to punish graffiti artists. We had a lot of fun, and the show was an interesting challenge.
We’re having a blast here in Toronto at the Bad Dog Improv Summit. Without Annette performed last night and our stories were full of wisps, trolls and the God of the Jews. We’ve been seeing some awesome improv too. Last night we saw two Harold teams from Bad Dog perform and tonight we witnessed Vancouver Theatre Sports and Unexpected Productions from Seattle. VTS did a great shortform set and Unexpected Prod did a two-man longform that they call Campfire.
PS. Nick and I went on a tour today at the Steamwhistle beer factory.
Trauma-Kit, a theatre/dance piece from Raptive Media, explores the experiences and transformations of a young woman as she undergoes a new and experimental form of treatment. The show’s various stages almost exclusively make use of a cord and harness hung from the ceiling of the space which created interesting oppurtunities for different types of movement.
I’m uninterested in an emotionally muted performance of any sort unless the skill and technique presented totally blows me away. However, Trauma-Kit provided what some other dance shows this year lacked, which was an emotional connection with the performer. Veronique Lefort impressed with the grace of her movements and the power of her emotions.
This gets a: Recommended (but be prepared for a show labelled “dramatic psychosis”)
Without Annette is very proud to announce that we will be performing/competing in the Bad Dog Improv Summit in Toronto this year. Other competitors include: Bad Dog Theatre (Toronto), Unexpected Productions (Seattle) and the Vancouver Theatresports League (Vancouver). We are performing wednesday, June 25th at 8pm and friday, June 27th at 8pm. Round 1 of the Theatresports Competition takes place saturday night (also at 8). Tickets cost $10. I’m leading a workshop on physicality and nonverbal communication so sign up if you’re in town!
Also, tonight and tomorrow, I am performing in More Or Less, a longform, at Theatre Ste-Catherine. It’s at 8pm (again!) both nights and it costs only $5 to see the show.
Last night I performed a “scene without speaking” with Dan Jeannotte of Uncalled For at Theatre Ste-Catherine. Currently, this and gibberish scenes have become some of my favourite kinds of scenes because of my recent forays into mask and clown. I often see improvisors get bogged down with talking in a scene, just blabbing and not performing actions or moving the story forward. Losing the ability to speak can force an improvisor to tell different types of stories and interact with the other players in different kinds of ways. I love the type of communication and understanding that develops between the players and also between the players and the audience when no language is permitted. Much of my inspiration for the scene came from a Commedia dell’Arte play that I saw recently at Place Des Arts titled Arlecchino, A Servant to Two Masters (Arlecchino servitore di due padroni). The play was entirely in Italian, and although there were titles projected above the stage, it was often unnecessary to read them, especially during the parts where a lot of physical action was taking place. Also, the mask characters were so strong that it was enjoyable just to watch them without understanding what they were saying. Therefore, my suggestions for gibberish scenes or scenes without speaking would be to: keep the story simple, use a lot of action and emotional reaction, and establish strong and recognizable characters.
The Montreal Sketch Comedy Festival is taking place this week at Theatre Ste-Catherine. I’m performing with the Best Friends Club on Thursday night at 8pm. Also playing that night are Uncalled For and Bad Publicity (which features local standup comedian Rodney Ramsey and others).
Here’s a link to an article (rant?) by comedian David Sparks. It’s interesting to read his “Comedian’s Stance on Improv” because the stand-up/improvisor rivalry strangely does exist in many circles. Although I am an improvisor I won’t completely discount his opinion because even Keith Johnstone says that improv is stupid, although Keith still teaches his own brand of improv and directs occasionally at the Loose Moose Theatre in Calgary. There are a lot of improv styles out there, just like there are many “Comedic Stylings” in stand up, and I think that most people will find at least one troupe that they like. Maybe…
So, the Montreal Gazette misprinted my email address last weekend when they mentioned my improv classes. I love free publicity but its rather useless when the contact information is flawed. I’ve really been enjoying the classes and I always feel like they give me as much food for thought as the students.
Teaching has given me a lot of practice at watching scenes and seeing the moments and offers that could be the “thing” or the point. The stress of performing creates a tunnel vision that stop a person from seeing the possibilities that their offers create. Most players need a lot of practice before they can have that separate section of their mind that’s analyzing things while the rest of their attention is devoted to keeping things moving along. I feel that having a teacher that’s objectively observing the scene and occasionally pointing out these possible pathways gives the students practice at seeing where offers can take them.
Recently, I’ve been very interested in scenes that involve little or no talking because the “thing” or the point of the scene can be so simple and yet so entertaining to watch if the performer shows a lot of emotion and really invested in what s\he’s doing. The key is to find what the character thinks is important and to play with object or concept.
My next improv class is this saturday from 6pm-9pm at MAI, 3680 rue Jeanne-Mance, room 223 and it costs $15. Those interested in the should contact Marc Rowland at marc [dot] rowland [at] gmail [dot] com. It’s really fun!