When did you first start improvising?
I played Dungeons & Dragons with high school friends in about 2001 when I was fifteen years old, with my high school friends. I took the role of Dungeon Master. For people unfamiliar with Dungeons & Dragons, the players create a character and must work together in a fictional world to solve a number of problems. The Dungeon Master (DM) is the storyteller / narrator of locations and events in this fictional world and also plays every other character that inhabits this world. So this was where I first began playing improvised scenarios and characters in small scenes across the role-playing table top.
Of course, I watched and loved Whose Line Is It Anyway from about the same time (2001), and that’s what gave me the desire to get into this thing properly. I never really thought I would. I never knew there was something like that that existed in Adelaide. So I acted. Did lots of theatre shows. Then studied at SA Casting and did some commercials, some radio work, some film. Then, in 2004 my class had TheatreSports workshops. Holy crap! This is what I saw on Whose Line Is It Anyway! I already knew all the games we were learning. Already knew the style and what things seemed to work and what things flopped. As Anne Peters (my manager) said, “I was like a fish in water”. Seriously, those words were uttered. I remember them to this day.
Well, I started studying to become an actor at Flinders Drama Centre in 2005, and that was the same year that a team was assembled from SA Casting to compete in Clash of the Theatre Titans at The Space theatre. My class team had won the SA Casting competition, and I was lucky enough to take away best male player on the night (not sure if I deserved it though). Then a bunch of us “potentials” at SA Casting were auditioned to make a team of four in Clash. I was one that got in! And so was Dan Hamilton. With us was an awesome player, Scott, and a titan of comedy, Camille. After doing tremendously in the Clash season (I think we won two of the four shows), Dan and myself returned for numerous other improv shows. But it was after that Clash season in 2005 that I consider myself to have started improvising.
What, if anything, hooked you and kept you coming back for more?
It’s fun! In no other place can I play I cowboy, a robot and a vampire all in the same show. Hell, all in the same story! I don’t have to prepare or learn any of that before the show, I don’t have to prepare or learn the narrative. All I have to do is rock up and play. It’s just like the games we used to play as kids where we’d lose ourselves in elaborate fantasies (I still remember taking a number of my primary school friends “back in time” several minutes with the use of a travel clock I found in my grandparent’s cupboard, inspired by the movie Back to the Future). In scripted shows, you are given a script, which acts as the bones for your show. As an actor, you provide the muscles, the heart, the mind and the soul. And it is a tremendously challenging and rewarding expression. In improvised shows you have the freedom to tell the story that is born from the performers and the audience and the things that have happened to us all that have brought us to that show, that night. We get to play in a world that will exist only once, and play characters that might never appear again. So let’s enjoy ourselves!