The improvisation scene is great. The warmth, the inventiveness, the commitment to the craft, the welcoming atmosphere. If you’re reading this, I’m sure you agree.
Only… what scene are we talking about? I’ve found that we think about our scene in terms of our local area, or perhaps stretch it out to include the folk we encounter at the Edinburgh fringe once a year. Of course, we also pay tribute to the big hitters in North America, and some of us are privileged enough to make a pilgrimage out to one Mecca or other ( http://www.loosemoose.com/ ,http://www.secondcity.com/ http://ioimprov.com/ http://www.ucbtheatre.com/ ), but these are necessarily rare events. The thing is, it needn’t be that way. Almost every month of the year, you can stretch your improv horizons outside of the UK. Ladies and gentleman, may I introduce… Europe.
I myself got an introduction through mask-work, a somewhat niche activity that gathers nationalities together for an opportunity to play. (In other words, like in so many areas, I didn’t take the plunge, the plunge took me.) That opened my eyes to just how much activity is going on in Europe, highly accessible to foreigners through a developed festival circuit. A circuit on which you can both encounter celebrated international performers/teachers and be exposed to wonders previously unknown (such as Gregor Moder & Maja Dekleva Lapajne’s wondrous two-prov FM http://www.drama.si/repertoar/fm.html )
Yes, I know. We don’t speak the languages. We don’t like flying. We’re scared of currywurst. Not to worry! Many events, including most of the festivals, use English as their lingua franca. You can take a train or even a bus to a great many locations. And once you get past its gruff exterior, the wurst is a kindly beast.
Here’s a potted description of just some events coming up.
- The next festival occuring for sure is the Amsterdam festival in January. The workshop lists haven’t been named at the time of writing, but with Patti Stiles and Rama Nicholas performing there is some guaranteed quality in the lineup. http://impro-amsterdam.nl/cms/
- March sees the Berlin improfestival http://www.improfestival.de/web/index.php/id-2013-361.html, a sizable one that’s certain to have more than enough to keep you happy. I haven’t been but last year’s lineup http://www.improfestival.de/web/index.php/impro2012-schedule.html (with English language shows clearly ID’d) looked great.
- Not a festival, but an international location for good improvisational workshops, is the Odsherred Teaterskole in Denmark. Steen Haakon Hansen is a wonderful clown who has worked with Keith Johnstone extensively and teaches his work with his backing. And the site also sees an annual Easter mask-work retreat – 2013 will be my 4th year – which involves the most intensive and rewarding work I’ve ever done. http://www.nyscenekunst.dk/opslag.asp?page=29 (listings here)
- May saw the first Finland improfestival http://www.finlandimprovfestival.com/2012/, and from those I’ve spoken to it was a real success. They plan to do it again this year, so watch this space. http://www.finlandimprovfestival.com/
[There must be more stuff going on in summer, but I can’t be speaking to the right people!]
- October sees the annual Würzburg festival,http://www.improtheaterfestival.de/ which I’ve made twice in a row and is great (and tends to sell out). Workshop big hitters included the top flight of the Loose Moose Theatre, Patti Stiles, and many more. Shows (in English) included an experimental longform night, Theatresports cups, narrative plays, the works.
- November is time for Slovenia to rise. http://www.goli-oder.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=40&Itemid=69&lang=en I hung out with some of this crew at Würzburg this year and they are super fun, and the lineup they pulled together for last month’s run was very strong.
- Bringing us full circle, December welcomes the Halle festival. This year it has hit some financial challenges and may not go ahead. Hopefully next year will prove better. http://www.impronale.de/
If you find something that takes your fancy, you might want to explore it with your friends, as it’s always fun to share such experiences. But even if you would be flying solo, remember: The improvisation scene is great. The warmth, the inventiveness, the commitment to the craft, the welcoming atmosphere. Go to one of these festivals, and I’m even more certain you’ll agree.