Improfestival Mainz - Grown-up kids & life-sized bananas

“Quick! There she is. Hide!” The 12 of us run back to our hiding spot. Giggling and gasping for air we wait, stuck together like sardines. If a minute later our last group member finds us, we all cheer and applaud for her. We are one happy bunch of grown-up kids. 

I was at the Mainz improfestival to teach a weekend workshop Improv for Kids & Playfulness. And while I was there, I also got to perform in a show, join an open rehearsal, connect with old and new friends and be immersed in love, play and sunlight. 

The weekend started with my friend Ulrich welcoming me at the train station, putting me up in his house and fascinate me with insightful conversations. Add the equally charming Mario to that equation and I got one perfect afternoon with perfect company in Mainz. 

At night the festival Punk & Pomp started with an informal get-together where workshop leaders, workshops participants and festival helpers were invited to play together. After the fun on stage, we hung out and ate bananas. 

The banana is the Mainz festival's mascot, so they were everywhere. It also perfectly reflects the atmosphere of this festival: fun, casual, good. (And a little beat after a weekend of action)

On Friday my weekend workshop started, where I took the group into the world of playfulness, finding your inner child, playing for young audiences, and lots of silly games and big characters. The spring sunlight on the green and flowery fields of the university campus was too inviting to ignore. So when possible we played outside. 

Which, I realized, I don’t do often enough. If there is something that gets your inner child out, it is recreating your childhood’s circumstances again. And mine were surely not set in a workshop room. (That reminds me, I should ask my mother how to get grass stains out of clothing…)

In the evenings I went to visit the festival shows to see my talented improv friends and practice my German listening skills. The last evening they even let me participate. Following tradition, I spoke all my 3 languages on stage. And was spoken to in 4 (English, German, Dutch and Wookie). It was a fun show, with an 8-year old boy as the absolute star of the night.

The big afterparty reflected exactly how cool and perky this festival is. It was set in the house of the 2 organizers, where in 1 room all the furniture was stacked on top of each other. Also, there was a stage. And a blackboard wall to draw on. And every 2 hours there was a silent moment so all windows could be opened for fresh air. Imagine 75 improvisers going from wild dancing and loud talking to silent sitting on the floor and breathing together. And then BACK to partying. 

After yet another very short night, I went back to my workshop group. Our closing activity was a big one: a try-out show for kids. Real kids. We had invited some parents and their children to come watch us play. 

There was absolutely no better way to spend the last part of the workshop. By performing all the games we had worked on, the group learned more than I could ever teach them on a Sunday morning. 

The scene where the audience makes an unexpected sound… 
The scene where the shy kids had to be convinced to join on stage... 
The scene where the suggestion for a profession was ‘something with a hot chocolate machine’… 
Great stuff: the scenes AND the learning opportunities.

The festival was beautifully closed while gathering on the grass: all the participants, teachers, organizers, helpers, and all the love, all the play, all the sunlight and all the bananas. A little beat, but soft and sweet. 


Danke schön to all the amazing people of the festival orga: Marius, Marcus, Hannes, Chris, Mareike, Andris, Verena, Pamina, Steffen, Clemens, Franzi, Mounir, Tina, Claudia, and all the other helfers. A big, very big thank you to Ulrich. Thanks also to my wonderful workshop people for doing so great. Thanks to all the performers, musicians, the audience for our kids show and all my old and new friends I got to meet. Liebe Grüsse <3