Yes And…: On The Joys Of Doing Improv

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Lily on finding herself through the power of improv.

Everybody likes to laugh. Everybody likes to play.

Everybody likes to laugh. Everybody likes to play. These are two of the main aspects of improvised comedy, it is like being a kid again. If you are unfamiliar with this form of theatre let me fill you in; essentially nobody, not even the improvisers themselves, knows what is going to happen on stage until it happens.

The improv scene in Bristol is huge and anyone can get involved with anything from courses all over Bristol to monthly jam nights at the Bristol Improv Theatre (BIT) in Clifton. In fact Bristol is a very exciting place to get involved with improv as the BIT is going to be the first dedicated Improv theatre in the UK. It is currently run out of an old Polish club but there are building plans set for the end of this year. Their website is a very good place to start if you want to find out what is happening in the improv world. If you are studying at Bristol Uni I recommend joining the improv society, they are all lovely people.

As long as you have a ‘yes and’ attitude you will fit right in. So let’s break down ‘yes and’. The ‘yes’ part means you are supportive of your fellow improvisers, you are open minded to all ideas and accepting. The ‘and’ means you are willing to add to what is already there therefore creating something out of essentially nothing. This is applicable also to real life and it is a very positive way to live.

For me improv happened at the best time. I found it through YouTube actually. One of my favourite channels was an improv group who did mostly games for videos. These people are The RH Experience and they did a show in Bristol at the BIT so I looked up what else was going on and found out about the ‘discovering improv’ course they run. Since then I have been doing as much improv as I can possibly fit into my life. I also joined a group called the Unscripted Players who run weekly workshops.

The key to human connection is vulnerability…

I went to my first improv class at the start of June earlier this year. As I walked to the venue I felt nervous but excited. I didn’t really know what to expect but it turns out nobody did. That first class was about introductions and opening yourself up to new people and experiences. The key to human connection is vulnerability, which we explored that session. The first thing we did, after going round a circle doing names, was a very quick way of embracing that vulnerability; we set up chairs like an audience and we were asked for a volunteer to come and stand in front of everyone but we weren’t told what for. So somebody went to the front and then we were told why. Everyone sat down was to applaud the brave volunteer. And that was it. We were still unsure of what would be asked of us in front of everyone else even though we had seen what would happen, we were still feeling vulnerable however after the third or fourth time everyone wanted a go. It felt good having people celebrate you, it was a real confidence boost. After that we all felt comfortable around each other. We were ready to learn the ways of improv.

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I have been in a fair few funny situations. For example I have been Julia Ceasar, the lesser-known sister of Julius Ceasar, in a scene from the well-known play that doesn’t exist, ‘Julia Ceasar’. This is a format used for creating scenes; the audience will suggest the name of the play and which scene and the improvisers will create that scene. This particular scene had an extra rule; it had to end with everyone except one dead. The other characters were a Roman out to get Julia, her friend and her psychiatrist, obviously. It was very dramatic and ended with the Roman killing the psychiatrist so Julia killed herself out of sadness. A tale as old as time.

Now I am happier, I know so many incredible, funny people and I laugh so much all because of improv. It has made me a more confident person and has improved my creativity. I’m even now in an improv show at the end of November, which I didn’t see happening so soon. I would recommend it to anyone of any age but especially young people as it’s so easy to get involved in and there is so much going on.

If you want to find other drama groups in Bristol, here’s the Rife Guide with a handy list

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