Tag Archive: improv


another great wordpress photo challenge theme and so many different places where i could take this from but i decided this time to rather focus on one area – that of improv and my time with TheatreSports, now called Improguise, in South Africa who i got to spend about 11 years with making stuff up with and really just one of the most amazing opportunities and things to be a part of… like ‘Whose Line Is It Anyways?’ we get a stage and a live audience and some basic game rules and then a bunch of suggestions from the audience and we just make up whatever comes up in our minds with the phrase “Yes, lets” in mind – can be absolutely anyone or anything in any variety of locations and just so much complete silly ridiculous fun i can’t even explain… here are just a handful of pics that give a glimpse into the mayhem and madness and hilarity that have ensued…

[For the previous Photo Challenge with the theme of ‘Pattern’ click here]

i met James at an improv group class i sometimes attend in Philadelphia and he was the first one to jump into sharing his adoption story. even though the story is pretty hectic, it seems like James has somehow come through it really positively without having any major adoption issues. Thankx for sharing, James:

Well basically I’ve known I’m adopted my whole life. It was never some shrouded family secret. In fact the entire process was made very transparent to me as a kid. That’s not to say that I knew all of the darker details until much later.

Essentially the story goes as such: my birth mother, who was relatively young at the time she got pregnant (around 20,) was schizophrenic. She was very naive about sex and wound up in a one night stand situation with a man she hardly knew. When she became pregnant she and her parents went back and forth about whether or not she was going to have the baby. They were a Catholic family and they heavily pressured her to not have an abortion.

Ultimately when I was born my birth mother decided she wanted to keep me. Social workers, however, felt that she was not mentally equipped to raise me. Thus at the age of 2 weeks I was put into a foster home.

I was placed with a family of four who were absolutely wonderful. You often seen foster families depicted as abusive or terrifying, but I lucked out. They became my family for 2 and a half years! What I now know from having unlocked my adoption records is that my birth mother refused to relinquish her parental rights until that time. She was given chance after chance to prove she could be responsible.

It’s really a tragic story on her end. She ended up meeting and marrying a man with whom she conceived another child. He was mentally well, and it seems like she would be able to get custody of me…but then he died suddenly from a blood condition. Now she had not one but two children whom she could not take care of.

The other sad thing is that by the time I as 2 1/2 and her rights *were* fully terminated, my foster family – who had been planning to adopt me all along – realized that their son was developing a problem with cocaine. They felt it would be irresponsible to split their focus on another child, so they allowed another family to adopt me. That’s the family that raised me.

People get very confused, but I always say that I look at it as having three families: my birth family (the woman who actually gave birth to me,) my foster family (who raised me to age 2 1/2) and my adoptive family, IE: they with whom I spent my entire life.
For the first 15 years or so of my life I had very intimate ties to my foster family, often staying with them several times a year for holidays and such.

I don’t have a lot of adoption issues. A lot of adopted people want to know why they were given up, but even before I knew the answer to that later in life I never really wanted to know. I unlocked my adoption record when I was 19 because I wanted to know if there were any medical issues in my family history.

What I found out is that along with the birth half-sibling I mentioned above, my birth mother went on to have two more children later in life who were also taken into the foster system. So in total I have three half siblings out there in the world. That’s sometimes hard for me to think about because I have absolutely no idea how to track them down.

It’s fascinating to me that people consider adoption taboo even in 2012. We should be much more focused on solving the problems within the foster care system than on the weird stigma associated with being adopted!

this might sound like a devious marketing scheme, but it’s not – everybody should do the TheatreSports course, everybody…

for those of you who have no idea what TheatreSports is, where have you been? Only Cape Town’s longest running live show [and best kept secret it seems way too much] TheatreSports is our local ‘Whose Line is it Anyway?’ type improv comedy show where absolutely everything is made up on the spot – two teams of actors compete in a series of improvised games based on a series of suggestions we get from the audience, are awarded scores from our randomly selected judges and produce an evening of sheer comedic entertainment and much fun for the whole family.

for example we might ask for an interesting job [botanist] and an adjective [grumpy] and a tv, movie or theatre style [shakespeare] and an object smaller than a car [statue of madiba] and then we will produce for you a shakespearean play in which a grumpy botanist will appear somehow linked to a statue of madiba… pure entertainment [shows are mondays at the intimate theatre in town and tuesdays in kalk bay – check out our website for details ]

but back to the course – about once a year TheatreSports runs their course which has now been broken up into two separate parts – beginners and intermediate – where we introduce the concept of TheatreSports and improvised acting, but mostly do a lot of exercises, warm-ups and play a whole lot of the TS games – it is the most fun anyone can have with their clothes on that doesn’t specifically involve chocolate [unless its improvised chocolate – that’s my opinion anyways] – the next course we are running is going to take place on the 19th and 20th March and costs R500 which is a ridiculous amount for what you get

the reason i believe everyone should do the course is because it is valuable in a number of ways – apart from just being a whole lot of fun, the TheatreSports course is designed to encourage you – with a gentle push (you never have to do anything you’re uncomfortable with) – to break down your inhibitions and go beyond yourself – to explore and imagine and create and let loose some of the playful creativity that may have been locked deep down in yourself – and really just go for it…

because everyone who does the course is in the same metaphorical boat so to speak there is no sense of performance anxiety in front of ‘these people’ – you are all in it together and so what quickly happens is a group bonding and a collective diving in and enjoying the pleasures and challenges of improv. it doesn’t matter if you get it wrong because there really is not much of a wrong – there is embracing the “yes, let’s” of the vehicle and giving it a go.

how the system works is you do the beginner’s course and then a little while later we run the intermediate course (only for those who have completed the beginners) and when that is done we may invite one or two people who have possible TheatreSports cred potential to join us for class and see if one day you will play the shows with us – so doing the course is just doing the course, altho for some fortunate people it may mean a future life of improv shows and beyond…

and so i really honestly believe this is something that will benefit every single person – the course is aimed at people who are finished school, but we will hopefully be running some school-related workshops in the upcoming holidays so everyone is covered – for more information or to book your place, get hold of Tandi on 084611 7270 or email us on info@improguise.co.za

so this last saturday TheatreSports turned 17 – that’s right, cape town’s longest running show and too-often best kept secret has been running for 17 years, and i have been around for ten of them…

we celebrated with a halloween themed birthday show in the little theatre opposite the intimate theatre where we perform every monday night at 8.30 (you should come!) – it was a bumper show with no less than 12 of our crew battling it out in three teams of four with a show that contained much treating and the occasional tricking (or ‘challenging’ as was the more politically correct term we went for) as we brought in props and microphones for sound effects and had some students dressed up as characters roaming around the location mingling with the masses and challenge rounds and even were privileged to have the lovely jess back with us as guest mc (come back jessie!!) and the beautiful and talented kaliya (SA’s got talent semi finalist and player candice’s daughter) and much much more…

the show started with a revived theatresports tradition from even before i started playing where each team chose their own name and came up with a 30 second introduction sing/dance/act of who they were to introduce themselves to the audience – our team combined two extreme art forms as we presented ourselves as the metal ballet starting with a balleting swan who was then beaten up with guitars in some metal mayhem before reverting back to ballet for a final graceful death…

we warmed up with a freestyle freezetag where actors freeze a scene and then tap one of the actors and assume their physical position and then start an entirely new scene which goes on and on for a lot of crazy laughs – after a montage of short fast-paced scenes including julius malema’s lifesize birdhouse (“how will they get inside when you’ve given it door handles?”) which may or may not explain why he failed woodwork at school, the actors were warm and the competition was well under way…

starting off with the much loved sign game, we witnessed an interview with a taxidermist with a penchant for birds, before being entertained by a very lively party attended by a gibberish speaking lady gaga, a slinky and film noir styled character

challenge rounds were scattered around the show and the first round involved one player from each team perfoming together in a scene where no-one was allowed to use any words containing the letter ‘s’ – when you did you ‘died’ and were replaced by another team member – after a while the ‘s’ became a ‘t’ and then finally an ‘e’ to completely mess with the actors (try that one at home) – our team dominated the challenge rounds but this ultimately didn’t help all that much as we scored 5 points for winning the round (whereas a hey-that’s-my-mom enthusiastic kaliya was handing out nepotistical points in the hundreds for a certain team)

the second challenge round saw three players up against each other in a corpse challenge (where if you ‘lose it’ and laugh you’re out) which kim sadly was the first to leave after being ordered to bring me a “gin and tonic, hold the tonic” and then being shouted at for not holding the tonic when he returned… then it was left to me and anne to keep a straight face which was made tougher by her characters nipple-grabbing tendencies – we then moved to questions only and survived a frenetic few lines there before anne finally losing it as we moved to rhyming couplets and anne whispering “what’s a rhyming couplet” to me as she returned defeated to her seat

the evening was littered with other games and challenges to teams in games which saw a radio play performed in a minute, a whole set of other team member cameos during the first scene of a musical and one scene which saw me playing a jacket to anne and john wearing ryan as a stole (which threatened to *cough* stole the show…) and a stunt double performed fight scene where kim and john did the hard fighting work for me and leon

the show ended with a movie fest of films containing ninjas which saw some interesting moments – the cranberries theme tune “you’ve got to let it ninja” and a slow motion presumed dead ninja onslaught, just two of the 467 movies contained on the dvd under everyone’s chair…

for me the best part of the show (apart from having my beautiful wife Valerie cheering me on from the audience) was the fact that we took chances, we risked, we tried new stuff and messed around with format – some of it really worked, other parts need some fine-tuning but as a group we are ready and very much excited to be taking theatresports forward into some new and exciting realms having had a pretty similar format since i started playing…

thankx to everyone who came and supported us – if you still haven’t been to check out a show, please make sure you make a motion to do so before we are turning 18 – more live and funnier than Whose Line Is It Anyway? And we NEVER let drew carey play in any of our games…

and this coming weekend we are running another beginner course in TS and so if you’ve always wanted to try your hand at some of the games we play and learn how to improvise (the irony, or is it?) then get hold of us and sign up before it’s too late.

[check us out at www.theatresports.co.za]

“Sometimes i wish i was dead. Wait, not me, you.” [Jack Handey]

ah, one of my most favourite darker deep thorts by JH. and never true in my life in that i ever wished someone else was dead but on thursday nite i did want to walk down into the audience and slap a few people in the head (i didn’t!)

i was asked to provide some entertainment at a herschel-and-other-schools christian union pizza and improv evening and then to do a talk on the topic ‘how to make God the centre of my life this year.’ during the games at the beginning these 140-200 young people were just loud and distractionary and had to constantly be fought with to get and keep their attention. but then during the worship singing that followed they were even worse and a whole bunch of them were talking and making noise and just generally rude and disrespectful to what was going on. i was pretty angry or irritated/frustrated and realising that my talk was maybe not the most relevant for this crowd and God really stepped in and gave me words for what followed and it went really well.

i was reminded of the story Jesus tells of the lost son (which lots of us know as ‘the prodigal son’) which begins with this younger of two sons going to his father and demanding his inheritance and the father gives it to him and watches as his son turns his back on the family and heads off (to squander his wealth in wild living) – now what is important to realise is that in the jewish culture of the time, it wasn’t just a case of “dad can I have my money?” but it was pretty much the equivalent of a young person going to their father and telling him “I wish you were dead!” from our culturally biased lens we often miss just how strong his words are. the inheritance was meant to be given after the father had died and it would be divided between the two sons and so effectively what the younger son is saying is “I want the situation to be as it would be if you were no longer alive.”

Sometimes i wish i was dead. Wait, not me, you!

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