Opinion

Barcelona Improv Festival 2018

Written by Ben Verhoeven February 10, 2019 0 comment

Last Novem­ber, I spent almost a week in Bar­cel­o­na to par­ti­ci­pa­te in the BIG IF inter­na­ti­o­nal improv fes­ti­val the­re. Here’s my sto­ry of a week with two per­for­man­ces, three work­shops and lots of gre­at con­ver­sa­ti­ons with fel­low impro­vi­sers.

Werewolves, the improv show

The pri­ma­ry rea­son for going to BIG IF was per­for­ming Were­wol­ves, the improv show. A few months ear­lier we applied and were luc­ky to be accep­ted to be part of their fes­ti­val. BIG IF is the fourth fes­ti­val in which this show is per­for­med (the third in which I took part) and the gre­at thing is that our cast is get­ting more and more used to each other and beco­ming bet­ter at per­for­ming together. Sin­ce we are a Dut­ch-Bel­gi­an ensem­ble, many of us don’t per­form together very often and rehear­sal oppor­tu­ni­ties for this show are limi­ted. I was the­re­fo­re hap­py that we took the who­le after­noon befo­re the show off to spend time together as the cast. Also taking a litt­le bit of time for a run-through, but also just get­ting to know each other bet­ter. It see­med to have wor­ked, becau­se we had a gre­at time on sta­ge.

One of my per­so­nal favou­ri­te moments of the show was in the begin­ning. I ini­ti­a­ted a sce­ne in the bath hou­se of the vil­la­ge as a dir­ty old sexist man. This charac­ter was then endo­wed by fel­low play­er Sop­hie to be the may­or of the vil­la­ge, instant­ly cre­a­ting a huge sta­tus dif­fe­ren­ce and making this charac­ter impor­tant in the sto­ry. I had gre­at fun trying to port­ray this vil­lain in a human way, with creepi­ness as a charac­ter trait. A charac­ter the audien­ce loves to hate?

You can rewatch the show here.

Workshops

I took some real­ly inte­res­ting work­shops this week. Hap­py to say that I had fun with and got some­thing out of all three. The­re was “Mas­ter of cere­mo­nies” by Ella Galt with some gre­at exer­ci­ses on how to find your own voi­ce as the MC of a show. One inte­res­ting take-away from that work­shop was to indi­ca­te how an audien­ce should ans­wer a ques­ti­on that you as the MC ask them (e.g. rai­se your hand if it’s the first time you’­re visi­ting our the­a­tre). It makes it clear what you want from them, and the ans­wer will come more effi­cient­ly.

Then I took “Here and now” with Dan Sey­fried which is a gre­at work­shop on being in the moment, inspi­red by the Meis­ner tech­ni­que. The cool thing here was the gre­at con­nec­ti­on with some of my sce­ne part­ners in this work­shop. The most memo­ra­ble exer­ci­se — apart from the repe­ti­ti­on exer­ci­ses — was about an emo­ti­o­nal child­hood memo­ry. We all had to wri­te down a real memo­ry. Then in a duo, address the other play­er (who doe­sn’t ver­bal­ly react) as your child­hood self, wit­hout them kno­wing the sto­ry. Such goo­se bumps with many of the memo­ries.

The third work­shop was “Advan­ced short­form musi­cal” by Sacha Hoe­de­ma­ker, which deser­ves its own litt­le sec­ti­on here.

Advanced shortform musical

I didn’t real­ly know what to expect from this work­shop, but I love doing impro­vi­sed long­form musi­cal (see Com­mo­tie) and I felt like being chal­len­ged so I took it. Sacha took us on a rol­ler­coas­ter to cre­a­te our own musi­cal improv show that is struc­tu­red around seve­r­al short­form musi­cal games, some of which we inven­ted our­sel­ves. We per­for­med that show that same night on the main sta­ge of the fes­ti­val. After a bum­py start with the ope­ning song, the rest of the show just went by so smoot­h­ly and quick­ly. I was hap­py that the struc­tu­re was a help rather than an obsta­cle and that I was able to even squee­ze out a few solo ver­ses. The basic setup of the show was to have an ope­ning song with a pro­fes­si­on as inspi­ra­ti­on (in our case “astro­lo­gist”). We then see a pro­ta­go­nist of this pro­fes­si­on that has a dream (wish song) and an anta­go­nist that wants to dest­roy this dream (anti-wish song). After some musi­cal games we come to the con­fron­ta­ti­on bet­ween good and evil which is the cli­max. After that, we had a beau­ti­ful build up of poe­tic lines one at a time by each per­son which final­ly led to the reso­lu­ti­on of the sto­ry in the final song.

I’m adding a few frag­ments of me sin­ging together with my friends Evan Schweitzer and Step­ha­nie Heij­tel here, as well as plen­ty of other talen­ted peo­p­le. You can rewatch the enti­re show here.

Thank you BIG IF 5 for a won­der­ful fes­ti­val!