Most of us would shudder at the thought of partaking in improvised theatre. The pressure of creating something on the spot and in front of an audience is enough to deter anyone. Incredibly, there are a group of wonderful Wellingtonians that take our worst fears and turn them into an exciting, interactive, and hilarious theatre form—the improvised theatre-company, PlayShop.
Ophelia Wass sat down with Lori Leigh (Company Director), Jonny Paul, Ryan Knighton, Maria Williams, and Stevie Hancox-Monk over a couple of brews and discussed all things improv.
What is PlayShop?
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Lori: PlayShop is a company / community / network of people that are interested in creating spontaneous interactive theatre, in the moment, that brings people joy. I just improvised that statement.
What is a typical PlayShop rehearsal like?
Jonny: We get together on a Tuesday at Victoria Uni to mess around for three hours and work on our craft. Improvisation is a sport at heart and you can’t rehearse it at all. Instead, you can practise skills and techniques, get to know each other better, get used to how people play, and do all the stuff that makes us funnier, hopefully, on stage.
Stevie: Lori also leads workshops that are skill-based and very important for refining and maintaining our improvisation craft.
What does it take to be an improviser?
Lori: The ability to run towards to fear.
Jonny: Honesty. An audience will always know if you’re lying.
Ryan: The right attitude. You have to know that when you start out that you’re not going to be great. There will be a teething period and it will hard. Push through it!
Stevie: You have to trust your scene partners and fellow company members, that they will accept all of yours offers and work to make you look good.
What is an improviser’s favourite colour?
Lori: You know when you close your eyes, and you just sort of see all colours.
Jonny: Oh, are we being creative?
Ryan: All of them probably. Brown, no one ever picks that one.
Maria: I can’t do this briefly. I am very fond of yellow because of all it represents regarding happiness and sunshine. I also always liked orange. When I was six years old they did a bar chart of everyone’s favourite colour in school and I was the only person in the class whose favourite colour was orange. So I feel like I have to stay loyal to orange.
What is your favourite improv memory?
Jonny: During a show put on by PlayShop called Admen (an improvised Madmen), Stevie played a character called Shannon, from Shannon. At the beginning of the scene we found out that Shannon had a child. When this revelation came out, one solitary person in the audience just said, “what?!” Then, at the end of the show, Shannon decided she would go back to Shannon to look after her child and one person did a single clap in the audience. We assume it was the same person from earlier. Clearly the character arc was complete for them.
Ryan: We live in a community that does not encourage much failure within the arts, where practitioners can feel like everything you have to produce needs to be of a certain standard and we’re always striving for perfection. Improv is a lovely thing that encourages failure and makes it beautiful.
What: PlayShop Live! A weekly improv show with a relaxed and informal comedy vibe.
When: Fridays, 9pm.
Where: BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Terrace.
Cost: $10 concession for students!
The company is also involved with children’s shows, festivals, and show seasons.