By Stuart Moses
Day 1: Thursday 7 April
Six of us arrived a day early – a move I heartily recommend if you’re planning to attend in the future. It gave us a chance to settle into the place, plus we went for a lovely meal at the Anatolian Palace in nearby Stafford
Day 2: Friday 8 April
Usually, I pitch two workshops I could run and write a lesson plan for each, before writing the 50-100 word summary to send to the organisers. This seems inefficient, as there’s no guarantee I’ll have either workshop accepted. So this time, I wrote the pitches first, which made the lesson planning much harder when one of my workshops was selected. I wanted to honour the promises I’d made, while also exploring the discoveries I’d found during the research. Anyway, lesson learned, I’ll go back to my old process for the next event.
The way you choose which workshop you wish to attend at the British Improv Project is interesting if you’re a teacher. Each teacher pitches what their workshop will be about to the whole group and if someone wants to do it they go and stand next to you before following you to the room. It feels a bit like a weird popularity contest, but allows people to see which classes are big or small, and who they’re going to be playing with. All of this is a roundabout way of saying I had 14 people in my first workshop, which was a good amount, not least because it was an even number which rarely seems to happen.
In my workshop we looked at the concept of time in improv. The warm ups were mostly related to the exercises that followed. The mirroring warm up was particularly interesting to witness. I asked everyone to mirror not only their scene partner, but also someone else. I could feel the connections flowing around the room. We also took a location and played scenes set there at different times of day. We played a short-form game called Time Travel TV and had the group take turns playing the same two characters for a Time Dash.
I was asked to be in the Teachers’ Montage as part of the evening entertainment, which was lots of fun. I realised afterwards that I relied on two core signature moves: i) Asking people to repeat what they’d just said, then asking them to explain or justify it. There were so many players with so many good ideas, it felt more helpful to deepen, rather than add, information. ii) Using big facial expressions to react to what was going on. There were already enough words in each scene. I didn’t need to add more.
I was also invited to be in a musical that was set in a castle and called ‘Let Down Your Drawbridge’. One thing I learned from doing a Showstopper! The Improvised Musical workshop was to hold onto the name of the musical, and then use it in the last song. So when it felt like the end was drawing near, I manufactured some redemption for the villain and established the chorus for the final song. There were some great physical representations of drawbridges behind me as I did this. What a fantastic way to finish the first proper day of the weekend.