Tag Archive: improv


They say you can’t really be friends with someone you’ve only met on the internetweb. i say pot-ah-to. Trevor Ruddock Black [or Trev, to keep things, you know, moving along] is one of a number of those people. He has guest posted on my blog and allowed me to do the same on his. The thing i like most about Trevor’s blog aka Swart Donkey, is that he seeks out stories and posts of good and positive and learning and growth. It is a very positive place to hang out.

trev

So this week,combining the brevity of 100 words with the Improv nature of TheatreSports we decided to try a new form of mutual guest post: 5 posts each – someone starts. You get roughly 100 words on each round. You go with the rules of Improv and go with the flow, attempting to build on what the person before has said, rather than shooting it down. Here goes:

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Trev: 

I have never met someone who has changed their view mid conversation. Slowly, I am recognising the power of listening and gaps. Of making points and dots rather than threads. Dots can attach where they resonate. Threads tend to be too personal and have too many bits that scratch or irritate. I have also had my view altered so drastically that I now approach things with a lot more humility knowing that in order to change minds, your mind needs to be open to change. In order to grow community, we need to connect dots together.

Brett: 

Different people process in different ways. My chief means tends to be a delayed reaction. Kind of ‘No… No… No… Oh!’ Probably hindered by the fact that I typically don’t take very long to respond to something I read or hear. Often requiring me to return later, tail somewhat between my legs with a statement of ‘You know, actually, come to think of it…’ Which is good in that I do to to do that, but bad in that a stronger focus on listening deeper, earlier, might save a whole lot of in between trouble and unnecessary push back?

Trev:

Perhaps there is not enough space for conversation. Everyone is very busy, and so when we chat, our intention is to extract information or give information quickly, i.e. not to ‘take very long’.We don’t kuier. When you kuier, you are very relaxed and so people can tell you their story without you feeling the need to respond automatically. You can listen, breathe, perhaps take another sip or two. Dunk your rusk. Ponder.  A challenge I face is my ‘unnecessary pushback’ often comes through body language. Even if I hold my tongue and listen, my disagreement is written in my posture, eyebrows and comfort level.

Brett:

This is the very reason for the Deep Diver Conversation Dinners tbV [my wife] and I have been doing. Inviting a group of people, who may not all feel the same, and preferably don’t, on a particular topic, to sit and break bread with one another. And have a four to five hour conversation [without phones – they go in the phone basket – so distraction-free] and the invite to really kuier and, I would add, wrestle.  Face to face with food tends to slow things down, and help you focus on the whole person’s response, and attitude, and hopefully words too. Where have you found this kuiering to be most successful?

Trev:

I haven’t tried the group discussion thing yet, but am keen. I have a bias toward books. It lets me have a visceral emotional reaction to barbs in people’s speech without them knowing. I recognise that much of our softer communication is carried in body language and physical interaction (which is why emails are often hand grenades) but books tend to be very considered. I’m trying to read more by a wider variety of thinkers. For personal interactions, I am trying to shift from debate to listening. To understand people’s stories for what they are, not for how they affect my story.

Brett:

One of my biggest shifts in recent years is diversifying the people I choose to be informed by, much like you. So refusing to only read white, male, Christian authors [which was probably my natural disposition before]. I seek out black writers, and women, and people of different faiths and experience journeys, as they are more likely to have something to teach me than those who say what I already believe, and think, and think I know. I love you last point on hearing stories for what they are, and not for how they affect your story.

Trev:

I grew up in the Church and the circle of people I exchanged ideas with changed quite significantly over time. Because of disagreements, people ended up parting ways. I have actively been trying to re-engage. I like the idea of a ‘Bull Quota’ similar to the suspension of disbelief we use in movies. If the movie is great, a few inconsistencies add flavour rather than causing us to leave the cinema. We all have some crazy ideas. As long as they don’t get in the way, a poker face can be handy. With sufficient in common, perhaps it is easier to fix disagreements that do matter?

Brett:

I LOVE that idea Trevor. Saw two people challenged on Facebook today, and both immediately walked away. I would love to see us embrace the ‘uncomfortable’ as well as the ‘not what I think/feel’, and not fell pressure to change our mind. But be open to trying to see the different perspective that presents. I also saw a long and quite in-your-face argument/conversation between two women of different races result in one apologising, and changing their position. It is not frequent enough, but it does happen. That give me hope to continue engaging in hard conversations.

Trev:

Spot on,  but they can’t always be hard conversations. You have to ‘play enough Ping Pong’. Meaning, you can’t always be on the attack. You have to make space for open time, fun time and silly time. You seldom change your mind to agree with someone you don’t have some sort of relationship with. There is no incentive for uncomfortable conversations with someone you feel you have no connection with. Walls are cheaper than bridges. We don’t change our mind mid conversation. But if we want the conversation to continue, we seem to prioritise each other over our divisive beliefs. That’s what gives me hope.

Brett: 

I think for the most part, I agree with you in terms of the majority of people. But sometimes you get the odd exception who really just are wanting to learn and will engage in the uncomfortable conversation despite the lack of relationship. But for the most part building genuine relationships is key. Because space for grace, and honest listening, makes such a difference when things get uncomfortable, and awkward, as they likely will. You need people who will commit to push through, and be around for the long haul.

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What about you? If given 100 words to respond and add to this conversation, what would you say? Let us know in the comments. 

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Close to 13 years of doing Improv with Megan Furniss and differing amounts of years with the rest of this crazy bunch i usually get to hang with on a Monday evening.

Making stuff up.

cow

And to be absolutely honest, i had been getting a little tired of the same old formula, week in, week out, and so when i was about to leave for a month to go overseas again, in one sense i was looking for a break.

Not that it had always been the same – for the last three years, the players of Improguise have put on the most amazing festival in January, which, despite living overseas at the time, i just happened to be at each time. So i was able to be in a full length documentary, a South African soapie, a full length completely made-musical as well as take part in two other forms of show we have all taken to: Namely Superscene and Stuck in the Middle [which are both a little bit of mayhem]

i had mentioned it to Megan who had been feeling similar and the whole group jumped at the idea and so the last class before i left South Africa we decided to perform a different type of show every week with the traditional ‘Whose Line?’ type show being just one of the many shows]

And then i left the country. With much jealousy. Of the good kind that cheers and celebrates and is excited to hear of the different types of shows happening in my absence including a documentary and a road trip.

BACK TO THE FUTURE

Tonite was my first show back.

And we played a Superscene which i describe as Survivor Improv where five directors give the premise for the next scene we will see in their movie and everyone else acts that scene out. Then each director shares what will be coming up next and by way of Clapometer [loudness of audience clap] the audience decides which story they don’t want to continue and the other 4 then play out their next scenes. And so on, until we are left with one final scene which is the Superscene.

And tonite the winner was Carolyn and i was her star lead actor Neville, an Afrikaans young man with a passion for dance and a mother who was against it.

But actually we were ALL winners. From the tiny audience of 12 who braved it out [and all wished they’d brought more friends afterwards] to each of the crazies who acted and corpsed their hearts out on the stage.

milk

Because we really did have zombie cows [who shot guns at people and gave heartfelt speeches] and a Cactus Milk Tattooist who created white tattoos [Zabhira from India who had grown jaded with Indian culture from watching American You Tube videos growing up and moved to America where she won over her father to the lifestyle and Americanised him in a ‘Pretty Woman’ type montage] and of course the plants [poisonous banana types] who while not quite saying “Ni” [semi-obscure-Monty-Python reference] mumbled something like Randy-ni-ni-ni-ni which was close enough. There may have been an edgy and insane Mad Maxesque road chase we never got to see enough of as it was eliminated way before its time. And a cheap and grumpy ghostly ouma who had trouble speaking as all her ‘N’s were switched to ‘M’s.

ni'

Thank-you Megan and Carolyn and Ardine and Tandi and Ryan and Ashley and also Hilton for working the lights. And the rest of the crew who could not be there tonight.

You’ve helped make Improv fun again. Because it has once again become unpredictable. This coming Monday we will be performing a Stuck In The Middle [one actor stuck on stage the whole night while the rest of the team create a host of different scenes with that person] with the proceeds going to uThando leNkosi place of safety for children as a part of the Mandela Day 67 minutes celebrations. So let’s pack the house. For a good cause. And for amazing laughs.

Looking very much forward to next week when we get to make it up all over again.

For more information on our times of shows and prices and how to book and organise for us to play at your school, poker club or seniors tea, click here and if you’re on the Twitterer, make sure you add @ImproGuiseSA to follow us around.

And see you next week…

elephant

i have a good friend called Megan Furniss and we like to make things up.

a lot!

Megan was responsible for pretty much bringing Improv to Cape Town in the form of TheatreSports [now Improguise: Players of TheatreSports] which quickly became Cape Town’s longest running and much loved show. And best kept secret, it seems at some times, although at the moment we are doing some highly experimental and completely fun shows [different formats every week] at the Galloway Theatre just outside of the Waterfront in town. Mondays at 7.30pm – you should come watch! Especially if you haven’t for a while. We also just recently did our first ever Duet two player show of Improvment and it was SO MUCH FUN we are both [i think] looking forward to the next one…

ImpromptuBrettMegan

Megan also has a huge love/hate [or maybe love/frustrate might be a more accurate term] relationship with South Africa and is one of the most proudly South African person i know who is not me, [when it comes to the good stuff] , and one of the most outspoken, incensed, head-shaking, finger-wagging, hair-pulling-out person when it comes to the bad and the ugly.

i, on the other hand [which actually looks remarkably familiar to the first hand] love Improv and the opportunity to be creative in the moment and the freedom of having no script and especially the quick-thinking word-play aspects of it and i have a full-on committed loving relationship with South Africa as can be witnessed here. Just try telling me i am not African. It is in my blood, pale though it be.

Megan and i also have strong thoughts, emotions and feelings towards race-related elephants, i mean issues in our land. i have dedicated a large section of my blog to creating space for conversations around the topic of race and for the most part [as i am not expert] inviting others to share their stories, thoughts and ideas to help us find ways to move forward more productively in South Africa and beyond. Megan has done a lot of Corporate Improv work with middle to senior management of companies and noticed a huge need for conversations of race which are the aforementioned elephant in the room.

Long story short: Megan and i are looking to combine our love of Improv with our heart for South Africa and start making more of a practical difference. We have designed a three hour workshop that looks to use Improv exercises and story-telling aspects to help create a safe space where people can begin the conversations of race that feel so necessary in so many areas of the work-place. And we are hoping to start running them from July when i return to South Africa. 

If you would like to know more and think this is something your work should invest in, you can get hold of Megan at megan@improvision.co.za or myself at brettfish@hotmail.com.

Let’s be honest – a 3 hour workshop is not going to solve the race problems in your workplace… but being the unspoken, unacknowledged, awkward elephant in the room [as it still sadly is in so many places] it is going to be a great way of kickstarting some of the conversations and movement that needs to follow… Help us help you…

race

Imagine waking up one morning and going online and seeing a semi-naked-sprawled-out-on-the-bed-alongside-your-Improv-friend picture of yourself circling the internet…

Cause for panic, right? You’d think so, unless the picture was this one:

ImpromptuBrettMegan

Which i woke up to a week or so ago and was like ‘Holy Crapamole, what’s my wife going to think?’

Fortunately tbV was awake and laughing at it in the other room and so we just jumped on the banned wagon and helped spread it around.

WE GOT YOU, BABE

The purpose of the poster i had previously been aware of and that was the oncoming event [which started last night] of a week of Imprompt2 shows where FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER, the incredible Megan Furniss [who imported Improv to Cape Town and began TheatreSports, now Improguise, Cape Town’s longest running show and apparently best kept secret] is going to do a night of two person Improv with a different person every night from Tues to Saturday.

The shows are each going to be slightly longer than that last sentence, at 55 minutes, and will be played with the incredible Anne Hirsch, Ryan Jales, Carolyn Lewis and finished off by Tandi Buchan. aka this beautiful bunch:

Imp

55 minutes on stage doing Improv with no other backup, no members waiting on the side of the stage to jump in and save, no muso to provide background music or the base for a song, and two settings of light: mostly on and mostly off. This is Improv almost at its dangerous best [it’s absolute dangerous best would be last year when Megan performed a one-woman Improv show].

Was i nervous? Absolutely. But more that i would be too similiar characters throughout the show [didn’t happen] or that the 5 people we had booked by late afternoon would be it [wasn’t – we had a delightful audience] but for the show itself i was excited anticipationary, adrenalin-filled and just so ready to Go Go Go!

THE SHOW

Let’s get this right out there. You had to be there. And so if you weren’t, whatever words follow are largely just for me and possibly to help you become really sad that you missed it and that besides our generous loving invested audience, no-one else will ever see what happened ever again. But i can try give you a glimpse…

We literally had NO IDEA what we were going to do. We had one light ‘rule’ that we were going to try and use, or not, which was that one way of changing scene would be to take a word, phrase or sentence that the other actor had spoken and repeat it as a way to start a brand new scene.

So we interviewed the audience. “What did any of you expect to see tonight? Or hope you would see? Or want to see?” They stared back at us. Nothing.

“Okay, so let’s bring it down a notch. Does anyone have a favourite colour?” Red.

“What does red make you think of?” Roses. [We’re getting somewhere, slooooowly]

“And what do roses make you think of?” Love. Thorns. “Ah, so we have the optimistic romantic side of the audience over here and the cynical bunch over there.” [nervous laugh]

So then Megan got bold with, “So can anyone share a story they have which involves a rose?”

No lies. From right at the back, someone [who, let’s be honest is a friend of mine] speaks out, “I once smelled a rose.”

We look at each other. Maybe we should just start.

And so we did. And without having a clue where anything would go, and with not a single accent, character or idea i’d been practising in front of my mirror all day emerging at any point [yay for that] we produced some magic and the majority of it was really pretty amazing, and some was really odd, and a whole lot of the really odd stuff was pretty amazing.

One of the oddest moments, and personal highlights of the show was an interaction between Megan and i where she from the left of the stage called out to me, sitting on a chair at the right and eventually came over to join me, clearly climbing over rows of things to get to me.

“Where’d you get all the sticks?”

“I bought them… at the hardware store.”

[pause] “Why do they have all those fingers on them?”

“To keep the badgers away.”

[pause] “But there are no badgers here?”

“Yes, they’re really effective.”

You can. not. make. that. stuff. up.

Oh, but we did, and more. [And if you heard the creepy accents we were using for that scene, just imagine it 1000 times better]

But from Megan’s Energiser Bunny skills demonstration for a secretary job interview, to pulling a Spanish guy out of the audience to interrogate him [who only said “Que?” and who i thought was taking the piss, but turned out to be really just a Spanish guy and so completely Fawlty Towers moment right there], to King of the Ice Throne [which you can’t lick!] whose bird Gabriel had to be eaten when he ran out of snacks, to the waitress at the French Cafe who offered ‘Cafe de Mime’ which is a coffee and mime combo, to being asked to dictate a 13 word poem, where each word rhymed, had three syllables and ended with X [which technically i pulled off, even if the ‘X’ was silent] to a weird strange alien creature who spoke in garbled sounds interaction, to telepathic CV’s, an on the spot song called ‘There’s a Fish in my Wine Glass’, a funeral where the roses had been made out of paper mache [by the woman, whose mom had died,’s husband’s ex] and finishing off with a Captain Jack counselling session featuring some Pilates of the Caribbean which you couldn’t really observe because it was all core.

And probably more  – it was incredible to see what we fit into 55 minutes – but it was dangerous [pulling an audience member on stage] and delightful and risky and fun and brilliant and when i walked off the stage i was instantly disappointed that Anne, Ryan, Carolyn and Tandi were playing the next four nights and not Brett, Brett, Brett and Brett. Except that they will be great and there will be a slightly different format per show and i really wish i could watch them all.

This is addictive stuff people. Be warned.

And so Big Huge Giant Tremendous thanks to Megan for trusting me and letting me go first and kick the week off. And for just absolutely diving in with everything and being so generous in both taking and receiving offers. i look forward to Impromt2 II

If you’re in Cape Town, GO AND WATCH A SHOW – Tuesday to Thursday. Do it!

megbrett

i met Megan Choritz, wow, 17 years ago?

As you can see, it started out quite daunting – the person who brought Improv to Cape Town in the form of TheatreSports, now Improguise, Cape Town’s longest running show [and best kept secret somehow].

But pretty soon i had gained confidence and the tables had been turned…

brettmeganears

Although some might not use ‘daunted’ in quite the same way, but i’m telling you, behind those fingers-in-ears is pure dauntment!

So we’ve played together for probably 13 years [as i was overseas for some of them] and made some of the most fabulous stuff up based on a word or theme or idea from an audience member or MC and it has been truly magical.

And scary. It’s always the teensiest tiniest bit of scary. Because you NEVER KNOW what is going to happen on stage. You never know what your partner will bring. And when it’s Megan who is one of the best ever, then it really could be completely anything. But at the very same time, you never have to really be scared, because TheatreSports is one of the most generous art forms out there and there is ALWAYS someone ready to save, to jump in and rescue, to MAKE YOU LOOK GOOD.

i was privileged to be there when Megan Choritz disappeared and in her place stood Megan Furniss, married to ‘Big Friendly’ as she calls him, the most unusual pairing initially with Brenton being a tall gentle computer programmy guy and Megan… well, not being that. And yet it has been one of the most beautiful relationships to watch. So much powerful and yet gentle love, so evident. Wow. She even wrote some great marriage advice for my blog as someone busy with their 10th year of marriage.

meg2

Improv has been great but there is another exciting journey ahead that i can’t wait for. In March Megan wrote a piece for my people who give me hope in South Africa series which was somewhat awkwardly about me, but highlighted in some of the best ways the incredible way two such-diverse people [especially when religion is concerned – HEY, COME BACK HERE!] can remain good friends and interact on such a deep level in some areas. Both with a huge bleeding heart for this beloved country of ours we have decided to do something about it. We have designed a three hour workshop which will help groups of people who work together get to the point of being able to speak about that elephant in the room of race. With the “Yes, lets!” and “Teamwork” nature of Improv and specifically through story-telling we hope to prepare people to be able to engage in a healthy way and really start listening to each other and get conversation started. If you would like to know more, get hold of me and ask…

But back to scary…

We are VERY excited to announce Megan’s upcoming show called Impromp2 which is as it kind of suggests, a night of Improv with just two people. I am very honoured to be kicking the week off on Tuesday 17th May with Megan, and then every night after that a different member of our Improv group will be joining her each evening. It is going to be taking place at the most delightful Alexander Bar on Strand Street in town. Two improvisors, one stage and EVERYTHING ELSE made up on the spot for an entire hour. No backup crew. No-one waiting on the side to jump in and save. It’s going to be completely scary and i can. not. wait. Come and watch. [and you should probably book tickets as soon as you can cos it’s not the hugest venue and i imagine they will be snapped up soon]

Also Megan will not be too amped to hear that one of the funnest things in life for me is a Megan corpse [to clarify: that means when someone breaks out of character to laugh, not the other one] and so Impromp2 will not be completely incredible unless we can sneak in one of those…

Megan Furniss and Brett “Fish” Anderson… like the Murtaugh and Riggs of the Improvising world… long may we continue [yes, it’s okay that you had to look that up]…

Also it’s high time she followed me for a change and Megan has just joined a group of us who are doing Tandem Blogging where each week we get a title and have to blog whatever comes out of that as you can see with our most recent one on ‘The Art of Boredom’ for which you can find Megan’s perfectly captured piece over here.

fis

So this is a little awkward… but i was never one to shy away from awkward…

Today while i was out in town i got an email which i checked on my phone and it was from my friend and Improv guru, Megan Furniss, and simply subjected, ‘a little thing i wrote’, and so i read it and it made me a little emotional sitting outside in Long street in the middle of Cape Town at a coffee shop called Lolas…

Shortly after, another short email came through which said this:

‘I hope you post it as one of the ‘people in SA who make me hopeful’ series. It is meant for public.’

And so [anyone knowing Megan Furniss will know the last line disclaimer to be completely 100% true] this is this week’s story of hope in South Africa:

‘There is this guy I know, Brett Fish Anderson, and he is one of these people that make my feelings complicated, in a good way. I disagree with him on the most fundamental of issues, because I am a proud and outspoken atheist and he is a loud(ish) Christian. I am diametrically opposed to religion of any shape or form and would be happy to wake up to a world without it, in the same way that Brett would love to have a raisin free world.

And yet, for the most part, or in fact, for all the other parts, I think that Brett and I share the world and our view of it, and the people in it. And Brett is one person who gives me hope in South Africa.

Here are a few reasons why.

Brett went to America and learned stuff. When he came back he kept asking the right, and important questions. And mostly they tackle the issue of race, and white privilege head-on. This is vital. Brett is clear about understanding, or at least trying to understand, poverty. This is vital. Brett doesn’t take being white personally, even though he is. There are very few people that I know of that can get over themselves enough to be honest, outspoken and truthful about white privilege. He picks at the scab, and has to be pretty strong about what comes out. Often it is the stinky, white pus. He is brave, and clear, and diligent and consistent here, and he gives me hope, and direction in this regard. I am a hothead and I get hysterical. Sometimes I need Brett’s more gentle and ironic voice (even though I pretty much hate every pun and silly spelling departure).

Brett is an improviser, and we improvise together. This means we share the improv (and life) philosophy of YES. This makes us those people. We see possibility. We see a story unfolding. We see characters come alive because of the positive. This is vital in South Africa.

Brett can rhyme. This is vital, because I love rhyming.

Brett has written a book called ‘i, church’. I might not read it because I have no interest in the subject matter. But I love Brett and his mind, and his way in the world, and in my South Africa.

Disclaimer: He did not pay, in cash or anything else, for these words.’

[And speaking of words, Megan is an excellent writer and improviser and her first novel, ‘Green Margie and the Starlight’ is now up on Amazon and you should totally buy it and read it and share it around cos it is that good – and nope, she definitely didn’t expect me to do that!]

[For another story of someone who gives hope, this time Jason Woolf and a way of revitalising SA culture, click here]

[For other South African stories of people giving us hope, click here]

This was recorded at our Improguise: Players of TheatreSports show last nite and is quite possibly one of the best scenes i have ever been involved in.

The best part for me is there was absolutely no planning or pre-thought or idea of what was going to happen until the moment Anne was behind me and i just launched into it and like a true pro she followed and the rest is Improv history.

This is why we do this. [With Anne Hirsch and Carolyn Lewis]

We play shows every monday night at the Galloway theatre at 8pm [except this coming monday as we are doing a photo shoot to promo our venue] ending early December so make sure you book and come and watch really soon… although we will be back early next year…

For more info check out our page over here. Or like our Facebook page over here. Or you can even stalk us on the Twitterer @TheatresportsSA.

 

 

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