When did you first start improvising?
I studied improvisation for the first time in Year 9 drama, just two years ago. I was fourteen years old at the time and didn’t have much of an idea of what improvisation was. My drama teacher made us watch episodes of “Whose Line is it Anyway?” and I became really interested in it. The thought of having no script was frightening, but seeing what could happen on the spot without having anything written for you was exciting!
However, drama at our school was very limited and we didn’t really get to explore improvisation at all. Our teacher told us we weren’t at the right level to start improvising and refused to even let us do a few improv games, which I now know, is totally wrong, because anybody at any level can improvise if they really wanted to. Frustrated at the lack of improvisation in my drama classes at school, I googled “Improv in Adelaide” one night, in hope that I’d find some classes for people my age. Nothing came up at all, apart from On The Fly’s website. As I clicked on it, I found that On The Fly offered weekly improv classes for $2 and I begged my parents to let me go.
I’ll never forget my first improv class with On The Fly. The class, which at the time was run by Eden Trebilco, was full of very talented improvisers. They were all so much older than me, with so much more experience, and I became intimidated by them all. But in that first class, I learnt my very first lesson; everybody makes mistakes, no matter how long they have improvised for. You have to embrace it in your performance and go along with it, because that’s what improv is all about. I loved that class so much that I went to Eugene Suleau’s Introduction to Improv workshop in March 2012, where I met so many wonderful people who were beginners just like me and learnt all the basics of improv. Since then, I have taken part in several improv workshops and have even performed with On The Fly.
What, if anything, hooked you and kept you coming back for more?
Improv is like being a little kid playing games. And if you screw up, it’s absolutely okay, in fact, it’s encouraged! For so long, I thought performing was just putting on a face and remembering lines. But it’s not like that at all! Improv is so enjoyable because you just turn up without knowing what will happen. You don’t need to stress about things going to plan, you just have to trust who you’re performing with. To me, improv is just about letting loose and having fun, because absolutely anything can happen when you play.
What, if any, improvisation moment was your most favourite? And your least favourite?
It’s hard to say what my favourite improvisation moment is, as there’s been so many. I guess my favourite moments of improv are when performing or getting ready to perform. Although I’ve only done a few improv gigs with On The Fly, I’ve loved every single one I’ve done. The process of getting ready for a performance is so carefree, it’s like being at a class. We play several of our beloved warm-up games and sit in the garden at the Grace Emily Hotel, until we’re ready to go on. Performing to a crowd, however, is completely different to playing in an improv class. The experience is so exhilarating. At first, you feel a bit nervous, but as soon as you’re doing a scene, you’re absolutely fine and nothing can knock you down.
I don’t think I can say I’ve had a really bad improvisation moment. However, I can say that it is hard to get started in improv, especially if you’re as young as me. Being surrounded by adults is one thing, but being surrounded by talented, experienced improvisers that have performed a lot longer than you have is another thing all together. But, everyone at On The Fly are so nice and accepting of anyone who wants to be an improviser, it’s been easy for me to settle in and perform with them. Performing with adults has proved to be a lot easier than performing with my peers as adolescents can be very immature (although, everyone here has their moments of immaturity!)
Have you enjoyed your classes with OTF? What do you think you might have learnt?
I’ve definitely enjoyed the classes I’ve done with On The Fly. The workshops have all been completely different and have taught me so many skills I’ve applied to improvisational performances, as well as performances I’ve done outside of improv. I think the main thing improv classes have taught me is to relax on stage. When I first started taking classes, I was so worried that I didn’t make any suggestions or take part in many exercises because I was afraid about making mistakes. It’s so important to relax on stage and just focus on the scene you’re playing, otherwise it doesn’t look natural. I’ve learnt that in improv, any idea is right because you’re in control of what happens and if you happen to make a mistake, the audience won’t know because they have no idea what’s going to happen either.
What was the favourite class you ever took?
On The Fly has offered so many opportunities for us to meet amazing performers and work with them in classes. I’ve attended about five workshops in the past year and all of them have helped me in some way. My favourite class, however, was the clown/bouffon workshop I did with Hew Parham. He took the time out to do a four month workshop with us that resulted in a performance at the Grace Emily Hotel. It was an amazing experience for me as I had never done clown or bouffon before and didn’t really know what they were.
Bouffon is about killing the audience and getting away with it, by using a point of attack, affliction, charm and parody. We mixed this up with clown, which is a lot warmer and lighter than bouffon. Hew encouraged us to write our own scenes and characters, using inspiration from the media (newspapers, celebrities, politics, Facebook etc). A lot of the exercises we did, such as portraying little people while wearing oversized hoodies, were extremely silly and fun to do, but also really helped show me how to get away with doing such a risky performance, thereby killing the audience. After a couple of months, myself and the 6 other regular students were able to create a show full of scenes of First World Problems, which Hew presented last October before the first ever Sink or Swim show in Adelaide.
How was performing for the first time during fringe for you?
It was a great experience for me. I love the Fringe and it was exciting to be able to be a part of it for the first time. I was able to perform with some people whom I’d worked with before, as well as some newbies who were new to the improv scene. Eugene Suleau, Anne Mayer and Tracey Davis helped make the show possible, by taking a class each Sunday to teach us some new games. It was a friendly environment, which is probably the best thing about improv, and we were all able to learn from each other in the weeks leading up to the show. I didn’t know what to expect on the night, because it was my first real improv show but it was just so much fun to do. It was an absolute success – the show sold out and the audience loved our hilarious MC, Hew Parham, as well as our spontaneous short form games.