Wednesday, 27 November 2002

Theatresports Pacific Rim: San Francisco & Melbourne, Nov 27, 2002

Theatresports Pacific Rim San Francisco and Melbourne 2002
Article by Kate Herbert
Nov 27, 2002

San Francisco  may be 14 hours away, but it is just the other side of the Pacific Rim.  In Melbourne and San Francisco, two improvised theatre companies are doing parallel seasons of TheatresportsTM.
On Sundays from July 14th to August 18th at Theatreworks  in St. Kilda,   a never-seen-before-in-Melbourne,  original Canadian  format will be played.  
Says Jenny Lovell, Director of this Melbourne season, “For the first time, we will be playing an entire season in North American format - two team challenge competition.”
“I have taken a boxing style theme this season,” says Lovell. “Two teams of improvisers each week will play open challenges, no time limits, no need to be funny, no holds barred.”  
“Players will form new teams each week. The strongest two combinations will compete for the 2002 trophy,” says Lovell.  
Meanwhile, in San Francisco, two teams are playing the same game weekly at the Bayfront Theater, overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge.  
Impro Melbourne has the exclusive rights to TheatresportsTM   in Melbourne. In San Francisco, the sister company is BATS Improv Theatre.  Both are members of the ITI,  (International Theatresports Institute)   a committee that takes care of the rights and execution of TheatresportsTM  "! around the world. 
The two companies have a special relationship across the Pacific. Several members of both companies (yours truly included) travel regularly to visit the other city to share ideas and skills.  
In April, Impro Melbourne hosted Keith Johnstone,  creator of Theatresports and three BATS members visited to share skills for two weeks of workshops. Members of Impro Melbourne visit BATS Summer School each year.  
Regina Saisi, Artistic Director of BATS, says, “ Improvisation has changed form. It used to be bastard short scenes, make ‘em laugh comedy club stuff. Then there was the birth of long form.”
She refers to the full length improvised play that is also explored by Impro Melbourne in its recent season at La Mama.
 “It is an exciting time for improvisation”, says Saisi. “I would love to see it more accepted in the theatre world. It’s always been the bastard child.”
One major difference between the two companies is that BATS has its own theatre, a full-time school of improvisation, offices, paid staff, classes running every day, a summer school in August and a large performance group working at three levels and a loyal audience.  
Australia bastardised the Canadian format in 1985. We were not satisfied with playful competition and low-key hosts. We wanted blood, a grand final atmosphere and losers - lots of losers.  
So we created a form with a knock-out, gladiatorial style of play, eight teams of improvisers, time limits that left performers gasping and a crowd that screamed for lollies, bayed for blood and cheered their favourite teams. 
It was such a hit, the ABC TV  made a series out of it. As a result, during 1987-88, 800 people came every week to watch the live show at the Playhouse.  2000 came to Grand Finals   at the Melbourne Concert Hall.   There are football teams begging for that size crowd.  
But it seems Melbourne has grown up. The new format concentrates more on the skill of improvisation rather than comedy. The company is an ensemble developing new forms of improvisation.

July 14th to August 18th @ 7.30pm
Theatreworks 14 Acland Street St Kilda
Tickets: $14 Full - $10 Conc and
$12 Groups of 10 +
Bookings: 9534 3388

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