The great George Gershwin once said:
“Life is a lot like jazz. It’s better if you improvise.”
The thing is that just like jazz (and life itself), knowing how to improvise is an art. A few weeks ago I corroborated it when I attended the show “Brains Have Perfume” from The Plot Twisters Improv Group*.
03.18.2023 – The AMS! Theater in Neustadt, though small, was packed to capacity. A relaxed, comfortable and cheerful atmosphere: the right space. The bar offered beers at the cost of the customer’s choice. I didn’t expect anything, I had arrived alone and this was my first approach to improvised theater. Although I attend plays regularly, an improv show had never caught my eye before. I mistakenly considered that improv was synonymous with unprepared.
It all began with a word —as John 1:1 would put it— a suggestion from the public: hammer. Afterwards, creation flowed and spread freely, however, in an orderly manner. The word acted as a common thread; then, many funny occurrences in the midst of a collaborative energy that was interwoven right at the moment. Attendees were integrated into a fresh, participatory and harmonious construction where the individuality and “style” of each performer also shone. The show consisted of two parts. The second had two new words: honey and TikTok and included two alumni in the cast.
At the end of the play, I spoke with people in the audience and everyone —very satisfied— agreed on how difficult it is to put on such a good show with so few materials, where the focus is always on the message. Here I understood why improv is an art:
Improvising is creating something of one’s own. An improviser is also a creator.
I learned that improvisation also requires practice. We tend to think that there isn’t much science to improvising, that rehearsals aren’t needed…rehearsing for emptiness, a changing plot, an unknown character? It just sounded weird. However, The Plot Twisters honor improvisational theater by taking it very seriously. Although the show was absolutely spontaneous and funny, a specific method was practiced and applied with mastery that evening. The method is called “The Harold”. According to the performers, this is a special form of improv that allows them to explore different scenarios, objects and places, put them together and make their own script out of pure creativity.
Another aspect that admired me from this function was the open attitude towards “failure”, which reminded me that perfection lies in the imperfect. As the actors commented, there is no right or wrong in improv. It is possible that one or another inconsistency arises at the „script or plot“ level in the show. However, this is not uncomfortable because the pact that the spectator makes with the performers in turn considers a broader level of flexibility beforehand. The spectator, thus, does not come to question, but to actively participate in the creation of his own fun. In my opinion, improv says goodbye to rigid art to present instead a relaxed show, where everything is possible. And that is its greatest charm.
Someone from the audience told me that the first and most important rule of improv theater is to always accept an initiative with a “yes, and…” I think that more than a rule, this serves as a life motto to surprise and be surprised.
I just have to say that I will be looking for an improv show again as soon as possible. Honestly, I laughed a lot, I really enjoyed myself, and I reflected on a type of art that made me feel both a spectator and a participant. Respect to the artists who flowed on stage that day, and to all the people who dare to explore their creative side from an open and vulnerable position. In any case, I recommend you to attend.
Tell me in the comments if you were also in this performance or in another improv show and how your experience was. Do you like this type of art? Were you as surprised as me? Events like this are constantly hosted by the @ams.theater and, for starters, you should follow @plottwisters_improv and @improttheaterbremen to find out what’s cooking in the improv theater world of Bremen.