By accident we found out that you’re doing improvisational theater. How did that start?
2011, I lived in New York. At UCB I saw improvisational theater live on stage for the first time. In the consumer role, I laughed, got involved and felt very well entertained. It was a blast.
Years later a friend told me about an improv theater course. It wasn’t her cup of tea but she highly recommended it for me. And she was right. I never thought about learning improvisation before and I made the first course without much expectation.
What made you stick to it?
Already in the first course I found out that the base and processes of improvisation have many parallels to the other creative stuff that I like doing otherwise like painting, designing and/or my work.
What sets impro theater apart from other creative expressions?
When I paint a picture, it is there. When I create a model in CAD, that’s somehow there. But on stage, the creative output is only for the moment. There is no reproduction, no ‘I’ll do it better tomorrow’ or some fine tuning. It means either now or never.
Don’t you feel under pressure?
Yes and no. Rather no. It is a positive tension. You are in the moment. What was yesterday and tomorrow will be, does not matter. You respond to impulses of the players, to the specification of the audience and make the best of it.
So you love being on stage?
Eh, no. Honestly, I have more stage fright. I really like to talk to and in front of people, inspire them for my designs and really enjoy them when they go along – but in my inner depths I’m scared. Impro theater has taught me to deal with an auditorium in general and the stage situation in particular.
Okay, in a presentation you stand alone on ‘stage’, but there are teammates at the theater. How does the interaction work?
Central are three rules: “Yes, and …”, “Being in the moment” and “Courage for mistakes”.
“Yes, and …” refers to the fact that you do not block yourself or others, but actively pick up the impulses from outside and creatively process them further. This looks like this:
A: I am an expert for Franzbrötchen (lovely Hamburg pastry).
B: Yes, and because you’re an expert for Franzbrötchen, you know a lot about cinnamon and sugar (the characteristic ingredients for this particular pastry).
A: Yes, and because I know so much about cinnamon and sugar, I have a future minded opinion on rice pudding (cinnamon and sugar are the favoured topic in Germany).
B: Yes, and it’s obvious that … (and so on)
The second rule “Be in the moment”, I have already mentioned. One is present, attentive and open-minded. Coupled with “Courage for mistakes”, the third rule, one is ready for improvisation.
We also say “Enjoy the failure”. That means nothing else than turning off the inner censor. The first thought that comes to your mind is the right one, get out of it. That is sometimes involuntarily funny. But the theater lives on that.
Dare to fail or enjoy the failure, is also the best credo, if you wrestle like me with stage fright.
How do you prepare yourself? Do you practice improv like painting or skiing?
We prepare ourselves. I am a member of an ensemble of eight people: Meet the Monsters. In addition to status and character exercises, we train our body language and various theater techniques to get a feeling for each other. Attention and association training are just as important as memo techniques.
Most important, however, is to eliminate the inner censor and at the same time to be empathetic.
How much of your personality can be seen on stage?
In the beginning, a frightening amount of myself. It felt that way. Especially emotions can be transported more easily if the feelings are based on own experiences. Sometimes I wondered, what am I actually showing? But in the end, you play a character – like any actor does – and you fuel it with everything you have.
Does improvisational theater bring anything to your daily work at INDEED?
The improv rules can be applied one to one to ideation and co-creation: acknowledge the ideas of others, build on them constructively rather than judging them, dare to make mistakes, and don’t fear hierarchies. That’s how unconventional and visionary ideas come to life. For me improvisation is an incredible enrichment.
However, the improvisational theater is not really about content. You make something up. But when it comes to business content/facts and numbers matter. So, there’s a huge difference, too. Never less, the basic feeling “The stage is the safest place in the world” helps to be more sovereign. And you learn to accept a situation as it is.
Of course, abandon oneself to an impulse and pronounce everything unfiltered can be tricky in real life. You might prefer to be polite than frank. Although I stick to the maxim: It’s better to alienate a friend than to miss a punch line.
I feel you. So, where do we go if we like to see you on stage?
Meet the Monsters have been regularly on stage for the past months. Our next appointment is on June 8th, 2019, the Impro-Show at KommDu Café, Hamburg. And of course, we regularly update our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/improvmonsters.
You know that it might happen that half INDEED will be in the audience?
Um, yes – that makes me sweat already.
Gnihi, Thanks for your answers and your time!
If you are in the mood for improvisational theater yourself and are looking for a first introductory course, then Livingroom Improv is your best bet. More information is available at: https://livingroomimprov.weebly.com/
Header by sheri silver on Unsplash | All other pics courtesy of the named companies.