Dan Richter - Improtheater und Improvisation
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Improshows in Berlin/Brandenburg

26. Mai 2013

Some questions - Ein paar Fragen

Why do improv shows have to bee emceed?
Why do impro pros follow sheepishly a storytelling fetishism? [edit: This is not about games vs. storytelling but about narrative vs. anti-narrative. Modern theater has developed non-narrative forms of performance. Improv players don't seem to watch these kind of shows.]
Why is everybody talking about some great mask workshops but hardly anybody ever performs improv shows with masks?
Why are you walking the old paths?

- Wieso sollen Impro-Shows anmoderiert werden?
- Weshalb folgen die meisten Profis dem Storytelling-Fetischismus?
- Wieso schwärmen immer wieder Impro-Spieler von Masken-Workshops, aber man sieht nie Masken-Shows?
- Warum gehen die meisten Ensembles doch die Pfade, die andere für sie ausgetreten haben?
(Fragen, die in mir entstanden, nachdem ich den Film "AG Geige - ein Amateurfilm" sah.)


  1. 1: Emceed: to involve the audience. Easy way to connect to the audience.
    2: Storytelling fetishism: because we are tired of 'funny' games. And isn't theatre about telling stories?
    3: Masks: true, we do so many workshops, but how often do we actually use it?
    4: Old paths: I don't.
    |(Richard Roling)_

  2. 1: I don't think shows have to be emceed. Variation is always good. Do a little bit of both. MC can be a curse and a blessing. Sometimes the MC thinks it's her job to be funny and "warm up" the audience. But, a well formed show doesn't need that. The MC can be a good way to organize shows that have a strong structure like Theatresports or Superscene.

    2. This puzzles me a bit. For me, all good games and excercises are made up to strengthen our storytelling-skills. But within improvised storytelling there are so many different skills that need to be sharpend; character, beeing present, not planning and so on. If games are reduced to a fast-food way of creating jokes, we'll loose a lot of good scenes. I enjoy both gamesbased and non-gamebased work. They teach eachother great stuff.

    3. We've had periods of mask-work here in Oslo. From time to time the occur in our shows as well. But - mask-work could be a treath to improvisers because it forces you to be honest, simple and childlike. And it doesn't always gives you the pleasure of beeing the "funny guy" on stage. I find it to be a kind fo work for improvisors "who want more". But often even they won't dear to challenge their audience with work that can lead to something else than the regular setup-punch-laughter.

    4. Not really shure what the question means. If it means why even experienced improvisors tend to do "safe" stuff on stage - that's because we are all a bit afraid an want to look good. If it means - why are you following the old masters teaching - I think that's because their are seldom new masters coming around. If it means - why do you teach the same stuff over and over again - partly because it's really hard to come up with new stuff and partly beacuse some of the old stuff works really really good.

    - Nils Petter, The Other Theatre, Oslo

  3. ... For the 'mask' question:
    It does help you to practice fysical work. So in that way you might benefit from it, even without using actual masks on stage.

  4. Aha. Q2 about storytelling. Interesting edit. Well. For me this touches quite a larger debate on the shape of stories in theatre. Personally I've been working with several companies that works within the "avantgarde" context in theatre. So for me it's not such a foreign way of work. But I see your point in general. First I would like to add that I do believe that even if one tries to break the regular path of dramaturgy in theatre, the audience will try to read it cronological. But, I do think that the point you are trying to make within your question is interesting. The post-dramatic theatre does offer some tools that could inspires us, and in many ways already have. Some of the ways improvised theatre communicate with the audience, and look for different ways of interlinking seemingly unlinked storymaterial is in fact parts of the post-dramatic theatre.

    But to why classical narrative driven work is central to improvised theatre, I think there are some historical and some technical aspects. Historical because impro so many places had an anti-theatre approach. ("Theatre has become parted from the audience and only high-culture - let's take it back!") Technical because so much of the basis of improvised work has to do with causality. The whole idea of "yes, and" is pointing towards a classical dramaturgy. None of these reasons should be stopping us, but I guess they are parts of the barrier.

    And in general I think many improvisors are afraid of to present something new to their audience. If you teach your audience to expect the same stuff every time they come - they will.

    In the end I want to add: narrative is wonderful tool for creating sponatious materiale bacause it gives us a common path on stage. Like speaking do. That's why you rarely see a whole show with only improvised mime - it's really really hard.

    But I agree - improvisers should watch all sorts of theatre (if they do it also for the theatre, and not only for the comedy). And I look forward to see a improgroup that can deliver this kind of work. But please don't do it only to look like "real theatre". If you fell you can express something new and important to you - do it. For me - I do improvised theatre because it inspires me more - and I try to let that be my only guidance; not the audience, not the "theatre-community" or the possibility to get a nice paid job as a comedywriter in television. and right now - I got a bit inspired by that question - maby I'll do some post-dramatic stuff in the next ensemble-workshop at our theatre.

    Okey - this comment got much to long.

  5. 1)The MC should be an artistic decision regarding the show's format, instead it appears as a default option in impro shows. Maybe it is a legacy of the beginning of improvisation, when somebody had to explain to the audience what was happening.
    2)I think we inverted the cause-effect relation. If we react with spontaneity to what happens, the story will emerge from that spontaneity. Instead we often lose spontaneity because we look for the story. I know it sound cryptical, but an explanation would take more space than the main article.
    3) Mask work is hard. We perform with masks in one of our shows, where we improvise a Commedia Dell'Arte scene to explain the improvvisation history. In that contest audience likes it.
    4) Because they are safer, but sometimes we try to experiment a bit with formats.


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