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.


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!