Improtips voor mannen en vrouwen

Improtips voor mannen en vrouwen

Voor onze duoshow ME & ME EX hebben Sven Lanser en ik ons gestort op de verschillen en verhoudingen tussen mannen en vrouwen (en uit persoonlijke interesse uiteraard). Daarom geven we in deze gezamenlijke blog mannen- en vrouwen tips voor improvisatietheater. 

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Dizzy & the Pit Kittens in Vienna

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"I was able to shut off my improv brain."

If you visit a place to do improv, I think this is the best compliment you can get. And we got it.

It is November and our improv ‘rock band’ Dizzy & the Pit Kittens was back on ‘the road’. This time to our lovely friends in Vienna, Austria. Agnes, Georg and the other players of Quintessenz welcomed us in their city, their homes and their stage.

I had the pleasure of not just teaching an open workshop, but also work with the very talented Quintessenz players themselves. I can tell you: Dancing for Dummies with very experienced improvisers is so inspiring.

Because dance is a different skill, almost everyone is thrown back into feeling like a beginner. Say hello again to fear, excitement, taking hurdles and the pride of achieving something new. I love witnessing that. And them dancing for me, of course.

That weekend Jochem, Peter and I got to teach in open workshops for beginners and advanced. I found that the Austrian improvisers are modest, but very trusting to try anything I ask them to. That turned into some great scenes and dance moves. We were one hyper bunch at the lunch afterwards. (Did I mention the Viennese also serve great food? Oh my!)

Several of the students of our workshops attended the show we did with Quintessenz at 7stern that night. This hip and happening cafe in Vienna had a stage set in a cozy living room setting.

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It looked like that was going to be a challenge for the dynamic nature of our Whirlpool format (we move a lot and we never leave the stage). But by making use of the entire room, the limitations became inspirational for us as performers.

We played in front, behind and in between the audience. It was a show about the power of beauty, a father that passed away, a kitchen design and lots of rubber chickens and their offspring. A lovely experience with such an involved audience.

In the second half Quintessenz joined us on the stage for a brand new format: Wiener Cafeetje. A format where we combined the mutual trust and curiosity to ask each other personal questions and play scenes inspired by them. Some amazing stuff happened on that stage. We all wanted to do this again.

The next couple of days we spend sightseeing, christmas market shopping, hiking in nature, going out, visiting musea and sleeping in. All of which was made possible by the wonderful and awfully talented Agnes, Georg and Lukas. We were able to 'shut off' for a weekend. And it was fantastic.

Also Vielen Dank to all the other Quintessenz players Gerit, Conny, Sebastien, Marc, the musician Christine, all the workshop participants, the audience, Claire and my fellow Kitties. 

Duoshow in Brussels - About the audience...

Oh, the audience. How I have come to love those people on the other side of the theatre! Especially after this weekend when the audience in Brussels just blew me away.

Dona Ursu, a sweet and talented improviser originally from Romania, asked me to join her for a duo show. She organizes improv every month in cultural café Le Cercle des Voyageurs, a funky place in the center of Brussels (next to Manneken Pis!).

We performed a new longform, based on an idea from Steffi Petereit from Germany, that we developed to a whole new format. Close Quarters is about two women living next to each other. We wanted to show the lives of these two neighbors, intertwining in small ways or big ways.

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In this show we told the story of Sandra the piglet collector who has a stalker and Helena, the single woman finally loosening up. We were supported by the fabulous Phil Lunn who performed his solo show before intermission and supported us as our musician.

The audience was invited to inspire our stories by writing letters that the neighbors get as mail during the play. And inspirational they were! In a way even more beautiful and exciting than we ever thought possible.

For a brief moment during the format development, we considered screening the letters. But we decided quickly that we truly wanted to be surprised. And also: that we would like to trust the audience. Based on this show we concluded they can be.

We received great feedback about the show afterwards from the audience. I feel I can say that without bragging because basically they were complimenting themselves. Telling interesting stories is easy if you get golden suggestions like these.


Van Hollandse theatersporter naar impro-jetsetter in 10 stappen

Van Hollandse theatersporter naar impro-jetsetter in 10 stappen

Precies drie jaar geleden belandde ik per ongeluk op een Europees improvisatiefestival. Mijn ogen gingen open: zo serieus kun je impro dus nemen. Sindsdien heb ik al veel mogen reizen dankzij en voor impro.

Hoe ik dat heb gedaan? Nou zo! Tien tips voor aspirant impro-jetsetters.

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Van Hollandse theatersporter naar impro-jetsetter in 10 stappen

Van Hollandse theatersporter naar impro-jetsetter in 10 stappen

Precies drie jaar geleden belandde ik per ongeluk op een Europees improvisatiefestival. Mijn ogen gingen open: zo serieus kun je impro dus nemen. Sindsdien heb ik al veel mogen reizen dankzij en voor impro.

Hoe ik dat heb gedaan? Nou zo! Tien tips voor aspirant impro-jetsetters.

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Tijd voor een impro-dansje

Na een heerlijk weekend bij en met de vereniging Improfessioneel, zit ik bij impro-collega Bart van Loon in de auto. Onze napraat duurt maar kort, want hij heeft de musical playlist opgezet. Binnen no-time druipt de glitter en het drama uit de auto. Beter kan mijn weekend niet eindigen.

Momenteel geef ik –al dan niet samen met Bart- aan verschillende groepen dans voor impro-musicals. Hij leert spelers hoe ze uit het niets een lied improviseren: rijmen, melodie, pakkende refreintjes. Allemaal on-the-spot verzonnen en meteen uitgevoerd, zelfs inclusief achtergrondkoortjes. Dat kan als je goed opbouwt, samenwerkt met de muzikant en het vooral simpel houdt.

Maar dan dans… Want geen musical is compleet zonder. Ik heb uitgebreid research gedaan naar hoe er wordt gedanst in gescripte, ‘normale’ musicals (ja, erg vervelend werk). Dat leerde me dat de magie hem juist zit in alles wat je lastig kan improviseren: grote massa zeer getrainde dansers, die ineens allemaal tegelijk een strakke choreografie uitvoeren.

Gelukkig had ik ooit via Anja’s impro-musicallessen wat trucjes gekregen als startpunt. Met de spelers van Improfessioneel en VerZINGsels heb ik verschillende dans-mogelijkheden geprobeerd en de ruit, de driehoek, de cirkel, de V, de rij en het ‘Nietje’ bleken allemaal te werken.

In de training heb ik niet altijd beschikking tot een muzikant, dus ben ik gedwongen mijn stiekeme voorraad musicalnummers uit de kast te trekken. Oh, wat ben ik dan aan het genieten als de spelers een ingeleefde dans op Memories uit Cats doen. Want er is bij musical echt niet zoiets als tevéél drama.

Een aantal principes uit de dans zijn wel echt heel handig bij impro-musical: mooie handen maken, armen strekken en de vaardigheid om vanuit je ooghoeken iemand te kunnen volgen. Alleen de coördinatie om met zowel benen als armen te dansen, die is niet aan te leren in de korte tijd dat ik bij groepen ben.

Verder blijkt het vooral een kwestie van goed naar je medespelers kijken, vol accepteren, de tijd nemen, duidelijke aanboden doen, herhalen tot je erbij neervalt en bovenal: heel erg overtuigd kijken. Kortom, het is net ‘gewone’ impro. Maar dan met jazz-hands.

Back in Portugal: on support in improv

“If we treat each other as if we are geniuses, poets and artists, we have a better chance of becoming that on stage.” Del Close

So I was back in Portugal again to teach longform improv. And I found myself emphasizing this concept quite regularly: treating your scene partners as if they are brilliant. Because basically that is all you need when you are doing that uncertain, scary thing that we call improvising.

It was Paulo and his group bYfurcação that invited me to the beautiful town Sintra, not far from Lisbon. In 2 days we worked with a group of 10 improvisers on longform improv.

It was a different kind of group that I normally work with: some were professional actors, some had no improv experience whatsoever, and some were both. And another thing new to me: the large representation of men in the group. I gather it has to do with the South European culture. It felt good to be a female trainer in a male dominant improv community.

Another cultural difference I came across was how well they are connected to their bodies and their openness to show emotion. These players danced incredibly easy and smooth, and were not afraid to be emotionally touched while being on stage. I loved that, I feel lucky just to watch.

In 2 days we worked on basic longform skills like platform, listening, inspiring your partner, storylines, edits and acting without words. We played a couple of longforms and decided that we were going to perform a variation of the Armando Diaz on stage.

I have a couple of favorite moments from that show. It started with me encouraging the more experienced players to take care of the unexperienced. “Bring them with you, let them go first or give them a small push when you see they need that”. It was a big stage; the threshold was high to step in.

Ten minutes after the show started. I saw that the guy next to me had not gone up yet for a scene. So I patted his back a little to encourage him to go. He turned to me and said: “I am really afraid. I do not think I can do this.” I told him I really believed he could and then he stepped into the spotlight for a monologue that was shaky, stammering but so truthful.

He later went back for yet an other monologue and I couldn’t have been more proud. Later one of the girls came up to me to tell me: “Thank you so much for pushing me. I needed that and I am so happy I got to play because of that.”

But support apparently goes both ways. The show was performed in English and Portuguese (and I slipped in a bit of Dutch as well). Without me asking for it, the players started to whisper the translation of the Portuguese scenes for me. One of the players even ran backstage to get to my side where I was standing without someone to translate. A very attentive move.

These moments made me realize how much we can mean for each other as improvisers. To support is not just supporting in scenes: it is the push when you need it and offering support before it is asked. The Portuguese made me feel brilliant, and I think on that night we all were.

 

My thanks goes to bYfurcacao (Ana, Paulo, Daniela), Mariana & Andrew, Karitsis, Joana, Ana, José, Gonçalo, Ulisses, Hugo, Ricardo, MU.SA and Teatroesfera.


Tim Orr workshop tour 2014

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Tim Orr likes quotes. In all his workshops he never starts without at least one citation from an actor, director or improviser. After a game of Ball, of course.

Of all the quotes Tim mentioned, my personal favorite is one by fellow 3forall player Rafe. “Improv is playing someone who is somewhere” It is simple and true. Exactly how I like improv.

I recently organised Tims workshop tour through The Netherlands, just like I did the year before. I followed Petra, Anja en Anke, who took up the organization in the years before 2013.

The difference this time was that Tim came back after only one year instead of two. Also more public workshops were organized than last year. This way Amsterdam was introduced to a whole new range of workshop themes.

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They centered on Tims approach of positive characters who like the people they are with. Being in most of the workshops myself I discovered what truly yes saying and normalizing negativity will do for scenes, characters and my joy in improv. It opens so many doors: you should really try it.

Lucky as I was to be in almost all workshops, I also took part in both of Tims weekend intensives. First he taught a group of very experienced improvisers his own format The Naked Stage, a fully improvised 3 act play. One location, fixed characters, no edits or time jumps. All the players have is the stage, one suggestion and each other.

After a weekend full of inspiration, struggle and amazing try-outs, 5 players decided to continue the work in yet another weekend with a show. (Come and see us play on June 1st!)

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The second weekend intensive revolved around Playing the Lead. Especially outstanding were the scenes with big emotions, violence and lust. I have seen scenes and played in situations that were awesome, edgy and intimate all at the same time.

An example of that can be seen in the video below, where I am… Well, playing someone who is somewhere.

 

Big thanks to All Improv for making this workshop tour happen. Also thanks to Sonja, Anja, Anke, Michael, Gerrit-Jan, Roemer, Polanentheater, all the participants and a BIG thank you to Tim himself.

Dancing & Moving at Adrenaline Festival

Unterstützen-unterstützen-unterstützen: the German word for support has quite a beatbox feel to it. And it is a good theme to remember for improv. Backstage we liked repeating it as our mantra. Our very cool sounding mantra, that is.

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By ‘we’ I mean the 3 workshop teachers, as I was giving a 3-day workshop at the Adrenaline festival: the cool little brother of the big Würzburg improfestival. Same location, same organization but just for young improvisers.

I was lucky to have Jim Libby and Fabio Maccioni as my colleagues. (Yep, you have reason to be jealous.)

Next to their respective Harold and Love workshop, I taught Dancing & Moving. It first covered how to bluff dancing styles. Later we went into moving as an ensemble and using physicality for characters and scenes.

It was a great journey to combine both disciplines: from the gimmick of faking dances on the one side, to using movement for bold decision making on the other side. I think I learned just as much as the 7 sweet improvisers in my group. (And sweat just as much!)

This quote from my favorite song phrases it really well:

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it. It is the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

The festival also included 2 shows in Jugendkulturhaus Cairo. On the first night the lovely Nadine Antler joined us on stage for a show Jim named the Metropolitan. It served our most important wish: all 4 of us wanted to play with all the others.

So we played 6 stories in very different worlds, elaborating on the audience’s favorite story in the second half. I loved all of it. It also included my first fully German spoken scene. Challenging, but great.

On the last night there was the heartwarming student show: I felt like a proud mama seeing the participants seemingly afraid of nothing.  A totally filled up house that starts screaming for the boy band performance: does it get cooler than that?

There was so much more, but words on paper will not do justice. So to close, one other quote from the same song:

Dance. Even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own living room.

To be part of a festival with such awesome people was an honor and a pleasure. I feel spoiled.

Vielen Dank Luisa, Christoph, Nadine, Fabio, Jim, Lena, all the helpers, musician, techs, participants, audience and Cairo Jugendkulturhause.

Shows & workshop in Brussels

I sometimes joke that travelling to do improv makes me feel like a total rock star. This weekend in Brussels however, made me feel like I was in a rock band.

We were there with the 5 of us: Jochem, Miriam, Peter and me perform together as Dizzy & the Pit Kittens and often musician Sacha accompanies us. As you can see here, the rock band vibe is also in our logo.

We for sure made the most of our time in Brussels. The lovely Kelly Agathos from the Ghost Sheep is quite the organizer: she set us up for 3 shows and 4 workshops in musical, dynamic shifts, genres and dancing. This all happened in the Warehouse Studio Theater: a diamond shaped, little theater in the suburbs of Brussels.

It was a great weekend full of playing, teaching, talking about impro, meeting a dozen nationalities and even crashing a stranger’s birthday party. Performing in 3 different shows though was a highlight for me.

ith Dizzy & the Pit Kittens we performed our format Whirlpool. This is an improvised longform where we play with absurdism, moving and never leaving the stage. Think of a cat, that doesn’t let its owner have furniture and will intimidate the neighbour by counting. But nobody knows up until what number…

On Sunday we played our new format Octopussy that looks into the lives of 8 different people. Behind the scenes we explored some of the movement theory of Laban and translate that into different types of characters. Really useful when all 8 characters –played by 4 improvisers- meet each other in 1 big finale.

The last show was a Super Scene together with the Ghost Sheep. It was one of their first times performing a longform and we had a great time on stage. They are a playful, bold and talented group of young improvisers: you should keep an eye out for them.

It was also one of the Ghost Sheep, David, who gave us one of the best compliments ever. After Octopussy he told us: “You kicked it into the stratosphere!” That is one for on a t-shirt. Our rock band t-shirt.


Many thanks to Kelly, Joe, Christiaan, Dona, Conrad, David, Poppy, Bart van Loon, ATC Brussels, the workshop participants, audience and my fellow Kitties and Hatmaker.

YOUNG podcast - afl. 1 Generatie-verschillen

YOUNG podcast - afl. 1 Generatie-verschillen

In de 1e aflevering van de YOUNG podcast is het thema 'Over omgaan met oudere generaties'. Schrijver en onderzoeker Aart Bontekoning vertelt over generaties in organisaties. We bespreken o.a. 

  • Met welke generatie de huidige twintigers het beste matchen;
  • Waar álle generaties het meeste energie van krijgen;
  • Tips het omgaan met oudere generaties;
  • (mijn favoriet:) Een anekdote hoe de ontmoeting met zijn 1e politiebaas ging.
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