New directions of improv theory?

Discussion of the art and craft of improvisation.

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New directions of improv theory?

Postby phlounderphil » August 25th, 2005, 9:23 pm

I posted this on the improv livejournal community, but I wanted to share with everyone.

This is possibly one of the most amazing things about improvisational theatre ever...

click here.

I imagine a world where Improvised Theatre is on even footing with Scripted Theatre. Honestly, it's getting tough to find good scripted theatre these days anyway. In 5 years, there will be troupes that perform serious topical or thought-provoking plays, based on an audience suggestion or some creative type of ask-for. Finally, perhaps, improv will not be frowned upon or known only for Whose Line is it Anyway...Finally, perhaps, improv will be widely considered a serious artform and those of us that have stuck with it from the get-go and trudged through the hell of frivolous audience suggestions or drunken debauchery will be rewarded, redeemed, and most especially humbled. Of course, we should keep the drunken debauchery too, that's just too much fun to lose. Discuss???

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Postby kaci_beeler » September 4th, 2005, 10:36 pm

My professor of theatrical history and play analysis said the other day in class that improv is theatre's lowest art form. He believed this was because a writer puts tension and serious thought into every single line written, and improv is on-the-fly careless entertainment. He also brought up "whose line", I think I shuddered angrily in my seat.
I didn't speak out against him because then I would be on a hate list, I imagine. He's one of those types you don't cross.
I believe improvised theatre could become what you imagine. If an improviser is trained and educated on the dynamics of good scene work, why couldn't there be a improvised play worthy of actual scripting? Wouldn't that be lovely.
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Postby erikamay » September 6th, 2005, 6:24 pm

Is an open-running long form in two acts (including improvised lighting) that runs on an off night at IO in chicago. It features some of the theatre (and town for that matter)'s best actors. i havent seen it, but have heard good things.

i have heard the old adage that improv is the lowest form of theatre, and to that i say boo. when improv is performed by good actors, it can be mesmerizing and of the moment.

on this note, i am acquainting myself with Johnstone. in his book 'Impro for Storytellers' he makes two points that i believe are relevant to this discussion: a) a confident improviser will not play to laughs, but to the dramatic truth of the situation from which humor will naturally emerge (sloppy paraphasing i am sure), and b) that improv's magic is that the audience and player are witnessing its creation at the same time. there is no status of discovery.

how is california?
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"I suspect what we're doing is performance art, but I'm not going to tell the public that."
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Postby beardedlamb » October 28th, 2005, 3:51 am

working in the college market i have met a lot of performers and seen a lot of demos. i can easily say with great confidence that hypnotists, mentalists, illusionists, magicians, jugglers, and bad drunk-driving lecturists are the lowest forms of theatre.

as the evolution of an artform goes, improv is right where we want it. people are experimenting with its possibilities. we have our gurus. we have success stories. we're creeping our way into the mainstream and its only a matter of time before the art separates into strata. those who do whatever and those who do this other thing. and the public will be acquianted with what each means and how they are different within the umbrella of improv.

it happened with film; another very young (but not quite so young) art form. once the technology and tools were there people experimented with its possibilities. first it was used to film half naked ladies dancing in one shot in a black box for two minutes. then they realized you could tell a story. then they realized you could edit and cut together footage. then (it seems so obvious now) they realized if you can cut film together, you can cut together multiple reels to make a longer movie. eventually they figured out how to get sound onto film. and holy shit, they figured out how to make color film. can you imagine how amazing that must have been. to them, they had no idea it could be done until someone tried to make it happen.

the forthcoming evolutions in improv may not be obvious to us. it's so new that we don't really know its uses. we know it can work in a bar if the content and attention span of the work is adjusted to fit the situation. we know it can lead to great scripted theatre, ie Second City's process. we know it struggles in some places and succeeds in others. but i have total faith that our FILM evolution is in process. once color was added, there wasn't much else to do with film. the progress it has made technologically since color has not been leaps and bounds. it has been fully defined as a form.

think of the stand-up boom from the eighties. clubs and comics thrived all about the country due to a lot of factors. mostly because mainstream was ready to embrace the new evolution of a fledgling low-class art form. it came out of the burlesque clubs and gin joints and into great performance halls. but it also remained in shitty joints. the strata has been developed over the last 50 years or so. now try to tell me people like bill cosby and george carlin have low-class audiences. I'LL KILL YOU, because they don't.

anyway, all i'm saying is we're getting there. we're on the cusp of doing great things and being the ones people look to for this new thing called improv. not so much in chicago where you can't do anything but a harold unless you want to play to five people. but i'm bitter and over-reacting. or am i?

just keep stretching the boundaries and educating the people. the art form will get there.

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