Fun improv games at the International TheatreSports Festival
By Jerrison Oracion, Senior Columnist
The Vancouver TheatreSports League welcomed the improv world to Granville Island for the International TheatreSports Festival this year. Between October 14 and October 20, many performers from around the world did essential improvisation and presented new ways to do things on the spot. Performers also were at the event to discuss improv at the International TheatreSports Institute Conference.
The performers used the concepts learned at the conference in some of the shows in the festival—including the shows created by TheatreSports creator Keith Johnstone. I saw two of his shows, Maestro Improv and Gorilla Theatre back to back at the Waterfront Theatre. There were not a lot of people in the audience during the conference, mainly delegates—though there were a lot of people in the audience during the plays. The atmosphere was similar to playing drama games in drama class, and it also was like workshop for directing.
In Maestro Improv, 12 performers did scenes directed by two people— the directors would sometimes come into the scene to make it more interesting. In each round, the director chooses who will perform, the audience rates the scenes from one to five, and the performers that have the lowest amount of points are eliminated until one of them is left and is named the maestro. The maestro wins a five-dollar bill.
In this performance, one of the performers named Jun was going to be in the show but was absent. VTSL player Jeff Gladstone substituted for him while he was hosting the show, and he did a lot of impromptu dancing while the audience was rating the scenes.
They even referenced the absence in some of the scenes, one performer sang a song about it, and it was mentioned in a scene where an elderly couple talked about one of their former husbands. There were many great scenes—there was one where Justin Bieber is getting advice from his wife, Hailey Baldwin, during his big comeback. There was also a great scene where two people talked about fir until one of them told the other that he is an undercover conservation officer. In the end, Jun won the game even though he wasn’t present to accept his prize.
The next show, Gorilla Theatre, was not only funny and entertaining but was also an example of a masterclass in directing. The show works with six performers performing and directing scenes, trying to get the most bananas in order to win some time with a gorilla named Coco. Coco participates in some of the scenes if he is needed, and there are set designers that create the atmosphere of the scenes. The performers can ask the designers get props, and the designers can even be part of the scenes. The audience determines if they like the scene by either saying banana or forfeit.
If the audience says banana, the performer gets a banana. But, if they say forfeit, the director of the scene would have to do a punishment. The punishments included asking Coco for forgiveness, a performer must tell a relative that they directed a bad scene, or a performer must do something while being heckled. The performers did a lot of funny scenes, including a scene where the actors must act while the expression on their faces is not the emotion they are acting. For such a scene between a father and son, I suggested that the father feels surprised but looks angry. There was also an interesting scene where a landlord goes inside a party and the person playing the landlord wore a mask.
Next week, more on the plays in the International TheatreSports Festival this year and a fiesta bus tour.