who do you play for?

I’ve just been writing some notes / thoughts about formats and choices for the Impro Melbourne company forum. It has started me thinking about Who people play for?

Great formats, in my opinion, have something they are trying to achieve, share, reveal, or question.
Something they wish for for the audience to experience.

Theatresport™- creating the feeling and excitement of sport in the audience through improvised theatre.

More or Less- giving the audience the choice of what long form they want to see.

Gorilla Theatre™- what do we want to say and create, try it, and the audience experiences us fighting for that.

Mr. Fish and his Spooky Library of the Improv Macabre- to have the audience feel tension, and fear. Scare & delight.

Wishing Tree- creates an intimacy in the audience as wishes are shared and come true.

BAT- have the audience experience story through sound and words, in the dark.

Momentos de la Vida- to create deeper texture and mood in the audience through visual stimulus of photography.

Gypsy Prov- family dynamics,internal workings of mischievous story telling family, audience sees a glimpse of improvisers.

Die Nasty- taking the audience on a emotional roller-coaster ride from hilarity to pathos in a heartbeat.

Blind Date- to learn about people, real people who are in the audience with you and how they cope with the inherent awkwardness of dating.

These are just a few examples there are many others.

However, when I hear people trying to pick what format they want to play the language is more..

  • “I want to play this because I'm really good at _______”

    “Yeah, lets do that, that will be fun.”

    “I saw them do that show and it worked really well.”

Now these expressions can be misleading, or revealing.

I confess, hand on heart, that there are times I’ve picked a format because it would be the simplest or easiest. Times I’ve picked a format just because I wanted to play and have fun. In reflection I can honestly admit that at these times I wasn’t thinking about what I could give the audience.

Time to go to the confessional at the church of Johnstone and receive punishment for my sin of selfishness.
“Oh no Keith! Not the whip and the snake again!!!! arrrrrrrggggg!!!! Yes, I’ll say 20 Be Obvious and make a sacrifice.”

Although my choice is what I want I know in my choices there is always the underlying desire to give the audience a good show, a good time. In my thoughts of what I want to do I am not ignoring them completely. However, I am also not putting them first. I am not saying ‘hey, we have a stage for an evening, what do we want the audience to experience tonight?

Even writing this question I can feel a mental shift between those two questions.

What do you want to play?

What do we want the audience to experience tonight?

After all the audience is paying, it is about them not about us. Try the two questions on people, see what kind of responses you get. Let us run test case experiments all over the globe. Does it alter the answers or choices when you ask your fellow players What do we want the audience to experience tonight?

Oh do try and report back. I’m happy to be wrong. Maybe the question only works on me, who knows. I’d be interested to see if it makes a difference. Yes, do try! Fly my pretties.....

Sorry, back on track.

So, who do you play for? Hand on heart....... When asked where do your thoughts first go?
Don’t worry you can tell me.
I promise I won’t send you to Father Keith at the Church of My Lady of Obsession.

You’ll note I didn’t say anything about our scene partners. It was a specific choice as I feel we are always playing for and with them. My question in this blog is the choice between what we want, and what we want to give the audience. How do we make that choice? Are we aware of this? Do we honestly contemplate this? Or do we only ask this question when we feel we need to be more artsy and theatrical? Hand on heart....


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