Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Die-Nasty Theatre’s Annual 50 Hour Soap-A-Thon

This September was my third time performing in Die-Nasty’s famous Soap-A-Thon (which in the past was known for being the longest in the world at 53 hours). The Soap-A-Thon is a completely improvised play that runs continuously from Friday to Sunday night in mid-September and is how the company kicks off their new season. It’s different from usual improv in that there is a director, costumes and sets. Most improvisers will play the same character for the whole thing or switch back and forth between two characters. (I really love costumes!) The first time I did it was in 2006, I completed 36 hours, then in 2007 I did 43 and this year I did the full 50. That’s not to say that I didn’t unintentionally fall asleep during scenes and whatnot, but for the most part I was awake for 60 continuous hours. The key (for me at least) is having a character that you enjoy to play, is uplifting and isn’t too demanding of your voice or body (because that’s hard to sustain for long periods). I’ve always had a blast playing with Die-Nasty but I realized this Soap-A-Thon that when playing with their cast that I tend to play young girls. In normal improv I pride myself on my physicalization and commitment to any character but because our appearance is created through costumes and not solely through our imaginations, I tend to play characters that I could realistically be based on my actual age and body type. In all three Soap-A-Thon’s and whenever I’ve guested in Die-Nasty’s regular season I’ve played young ladies who are generally naive and very positive, “fix-it” type characters. This hasn’t been a problem but is something that for the next Soap-A-thon that I do (which could be in Liverpool England this November) I’m going to challenge myself to play the opposite sex and a character that is not so good willed.

Some of the highlights for me included the mascot heist, where I got to kung-fu style stage fight all the male cast members (photo by Jana Hove), the “Face Down Dance”, the highest energy musical number we could muster at 6 AM on Sunday (photo by Brad Fischer) and the completion of my “banner for peace in Millwoods” (photo by Jana Hove), which my character was crocheting the entire time and was a great help in keeping me awake.

Improv Camp earns title of “Best Camp Ever” for its eighth consecutive year!

This August Improv Camp moved from our home of seven years in Regina to the scenic and lush Gambier Island, a short ferry ride away from Vancouver. I think the new environment was responsible for surging extra energy into staff and campers alike. It seems dull to bring up the weather, but really it is noteworthy. It was beautiful for the eight days, which makes all the difference when most of your programming revolves around outdoor activities. There were so many highs for the week that I’m flummoxed as where to start. Swimming in the Pacific Ocean, eating the most delicious food and being able to ramble on about improv history without boring people all made it a great experience. I really enjoyed the ensemble I worked with, the Boal ensemble (named after the late, great, Augusto Boal). My teaching muscles were still warm from camp in Australia so I found it really easy to bond with my ensemble. I was especially proud of their evening performances and got lots of great feedback as to their skills from other staff. The staff are a whole other jar of rainbows. Most of the counsellor & trainer teams included friends that I made at Improv Camp in 2003, my first year there. I look forward to seeing them every year and hold them dear to my heart. As usual, there were new staff members too, these are people that I’ve added on to my list of “new lifelong friends”. I may sound like I’m gushing all over the place here, but really, it’s the best camp ever.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Improv Camp, Down Under!

I went to Sydney Australia for two weeks this July. For five days of those two weeks myself and a team of Canadian improvisers were teaching at the first ever Improv Camp Australia. In the eight years that Improv Camp has existed we had become very comfortable with the dusty landscapes and endless horizons of southern Saskatchewan. Our cabins could best be described as well loved, or decrepit. Point Wolstoncroft, the retreat location where the Australian camp was held was nothing short of paradise, complete with exotic plants & animals and pretty much, all you could eat food. Despite the fact that it was their winter, the weather was very agreeable, in fact, it was nicer there than back home in Edmonton.

In so far as teaching goes, it was very different from our Canadian camp. Most campers didn’t have previous improv experience and few of them knew each other. Over the years in Canada, camp has become an annual reunion of sorts, for campers and staff alike. There were some growing pains, as to be expected with anything in its infancy. But through and through the campers were interested and for the most part really keen on this improv thing we were talking about. We received favourable reviews and have been invited back for next July for a bigger and better camp.

I had some time in Sydney to myself after the camp, it seemed to be a cross between Miami and London, and I say that never having visited either of those cities. I was surprised at the architecture and how old the city is. Perhaps it’s because I’m from another one of the Queen’s colonies, but I thought that the city seemed very liveable. Aside from specific areas, such as Manly Beach (see photo) the city wasn’t all that touristy either.

And after much hard work, I did also manage to find both a colour and black & white photobooth in Glebe. I promptly sent in photos of the booths and sample strips to Brian at He replied with the most grateful email I've ever received.

Edmonton’s Improvaganza, yes it is an improvisational extravaganza.

Kevin Gillese, artistic director of Rapid Fire Theatre invited me to come up with a visual aspect to Edmonton’s Improvaganza this year. I came up with what was so cleverly coined “improv art”. This meant that I had a little studio on stage and was working away during the Theatresports scenes. The work was inspired by both audience suggestions and the content of the scenes themselves. Afterwards the work was hung in the lobby for the viewing and purchasing pleasures of the audience and performers. It was a great experience and I thought of lots of ways to improve upon the structure for future festivals. Check out the website for photos of the art pieces!

Photo by George Basil of Magnet Theater's group Four Track.