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Code of Conduct for Performers

Background on Hoopla:


Hoopla aim to make impro open and accessible to everyone.


Hoopla aim to provide a fun, friendly, encouraging, trusting, safe and supportive environment where people can enjoy performing and watching improv.


We aim to book and produce a variety of improv shows that represent the full variety of improv styles, from people of different backgrounds working and playing together.


Hoopla aim to open up improv for everyone by putting on fun shows that are suitable for people who are new to watching improv, as well as existing improv fans and improvisers, to help grow the overall UK improv audience and scene.


Hoopla also support new improvisers and groups by providing a safe and supportive environment for them to build up performing experience and experiment with new ideas. We aim to have a space for everyone to perform, from beginner improvisers stepping on stage for the first time to experienced TV famous improvisers. We vary our marketing accordingly so that the right audience turns up for the right show.


All of the profits from Hoopla shows are split equally between performers and front of house volunteers. We aim to provide a fun place to perform where groups can put on shows without the financial restrictions of large deposits or profit shares that are found in many fringe theatres and festivals. We also aim to keep the ticket prices low, and give free tickets to people on our course, so that there is no financial barrier to new audiences coming and we can grow a diverse audience.


We aim to provide a supportive and welcoming environment to people of all ages, genders, ethnic backgrounds, physical abilities, cultural views, sexual orientations, religions and nationalities, and are currently working to encourage greater diversity and accessibility in the improv scene.


Hoopla also put on additional events like improv networking, jams and socials to help grow the flourishing UK improv community.


Hoopla also aim to provide safe and supportive events and socials where people new to London can join a community and make new friends.

To help this we ask our performers  to follow the guidelines below:


- Improvise together as a team. The team applies to the greater improv community and transcends groups, companies and shows.

- Treat our front of house volunteers, tech support, hosts and audience with respect and help welcome them into the larger improv community.

- Support each other, on stage and off stage.

- Support other groups.

- Listen to your scene partner.

- Yes And your scene partner, unless it is unsafe or demeaning to do so.

- Collaborate with, rather than compete with, your fellow improvisers.

- Respect physical boundaries and don’t do anything physically dangerous to yourself or your scene partner.

- Respect sexual boundaries, on and off stage.

- Improvise from a place of fun, love, kindness and respect for your fellow improvisers and audience.

- Safety, trust and support is always more important than the temporary existence of an improv show. So if in doubt, stop the show, and you won’t be made to feel bad for doing so and this will not jeopardise future bookings in any way.  

- You should never have to perform in an unsafe or unsupportive environment. If in doubt talk to the host, a member of Hoopla, or the venue management, bar staff or security. We do not expect performers to deal with unsafe situations.

- Help us to create an environment free from sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, ageism or harassment of any kind.

- Risky subject matter in scenes, characters with unpleasant viewpoints, and human/society/political issues can be tackled on stage if that is the artistic choice of the group, as long as the scene is to be treated with full emotional intelligence and the themes and moral implications of those viewpoints fully explored in the ongoing story in an intelligent manner (see section at bottom of this page for examples).

- Please no drug use or excessive drinking before performing.

- Please support the other acts when they are on stage, by not talking at the back or distracting from them.


If you are concerned about anything:


Hoopla does not tolerate harassment of any kind. If you have a concern or complaint, or are worried about the behaviour of a fellow improviser, teacher, director or audience member, please talk to your teacher or contact one of the following diversity officers:


Steve Roe, hooplaimpro@gmail.com

Company Director, Hoopla Impro.


Georgina Roe, georginabbream@gmail.com

Trained Mental Health Nurse and Health Officer.

Performer with Story Kitchen and works with Hoopla Impro.


Maria Peters, maria.s.peters@gmail.com

Teacher with Hoopla, especially helpful for women and people in the LGBT community.


Gudrun Fritz, g.c.fritz@gmx.net

Founder of The Magic Mad Hat.

Runs improv workshops for the vulnerable, elderly and young people in communities, and also has worked lots with improv for people with dementia. She is external to Hoopla.


Edgar Fernando, edgar_nk@hotmail.com

Improv teacher with Hoopla, currently working to improve our engagement with black and asian communities.


Stephen Davidson, stephendavidson84@gmail.com

Improviser, especially helpful for people in the LGBT community. External to Hoopla.


We offer a variety of people, including some independent from Hoopla, so you can talk to so that you can choose who you are most comfortable with. Your concerns will be listened to and follow up actions agreed and carried out where appropriate. All concerns will be addressed in the strictest confidence between you and your diversity officer.


Talking to us helps us to continue to provide a safe and supportive space, and speaking up will never result in you losing places in shows and will not affect future bookings of your group.



Other Links:


>> Code of Conduct Policy for Students on Courses.


>> Code of Conduct Policy for Teachers.


>> Teaching Guide for Teachers.


>> Diversity and Accessibility Policy.



This document is open to feedback:


Our Code of Conduct & Diversity Policies come from recent consultation with various improvisers, performers, students and diversity officers.


We also received advice and information from other theatre companies, organisation and unions.


We are now at the stage of receiving public feedback, and we’d appreciate your thoughts. If there is anything you would like to add or change please us at hooplaimpro@gmail.com.

Off Stage Behaviour


We understand that there will be creative differences between improvisers and groups, and healthy debate is welcome. However we cannot tolerate physical abuse, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, bullying, sexual harassment or abuse or harassment of any kind.


Anyone who is abusive, bullying or harassing may be asked to leave our venues and may be barred from returning and performing again.  


If you are a victim of abuse or harassment, or are worried about the behaviour of someone, please talk to one of our diversity officers above. You can also talk to one of the security team at The Miller, to make sure you are in a safe space.


This extends to all our show venues, warm up spaces, rehearsal spaces and after show pubs.


While we don’t presume to have authority over over improv venues, groups or the improv scene in general we can also listen if you are having problems outside of Hoopla.


Specific On Stage Examples Relevant to Performers


If in doubt, stop the show.


Safety, trust and support is always more important than the temporary existence of an improv show. So if in doubt, stop the show, and you won’t be made to feel bad for doing so and this will not jeopardise future bookings in any way.


For instance if you feel the audience are too drunk, or contain threatening or unpleasant people, you do not have to perform and can cancel or walk off at any time. This also applies if you are worried about one of the other improvisers on stage. This will not jeopardise future bookings for your group.


Security staff are available to deal with difficult or unsafe situations


Our performing venues have trained security staff. If you feel unsafe you can talk to one of them, The Miller bar staff or management, or one of the Hoopla team. We never expect our performers or volunteers to have to put themselves in an unsafe situation.


For instance if there is a problem audience member (drunk, sexist heckling, disruptive behaviour or similar) please ask the security person to talk to them if you feel it would be unsafe for you to do so. Even if the show has to stop, that’s ok with us, as the safety of the room is more important than the show.


In any of those cases the performers and front of house should not feel like they have to ‘put on a brave face’ and carry on.


Instead the show can be stopped at any time and they can walk off stage and ask either someone from the company, or the bar management, or bouncer, to get people to leave the premises. No group will ever be penalised for doing that.


Ideally the room will be ‘policed’ before that and problem people removed before the show starts or during the show. The ultimate responsibility for this lies with The Miller, who have trained security staff, so if in doubt Hoopla people should talk to the bar management or bouncer who will professionally ask people to leave.  


No performers, front of house or other people working with Hoopla should have to put themselves in physical danger by asking someone to leave, nor should they have to tolerate abuse while performing their art. So if in doubt, just stop the show and ask the venue to sort out problem people.


If the offending person is known as an improv teacher, performer or is currently on a Hoopla course then the diversity officer should be informed after the event, and may result in cancellation of all future work for that teacher or performer or removal from course for student.


Hecklers


Luckily we rarely get unpleasant hecklers. Shouting out and audience participation is encouraged for many of our shows. However if you do get some people who are unpleasantly heckling do feel free to talk to the host or security guards, and don’t feel like you have to carry on with the show if you don’t feel safe to do so.


Physical boundaries


Every group has a different artistic choice and group agreement regards physical boundaries. However we reserve the right to step in and stop shows that we feel are unsafe.


We won’t allow anything that is physically harmful on stage. For instance slapping, hitting, dragging or carrying in a dangerous manner are not allowed on our stage, regardless of the artistic choice of the group, as we have to prioritise the safety and trust of the room.


We may not book improvisers or groups again that we feel are physically unsafe on stage.


Sexual boundaries


We understand that groups have different artistic choices and group agreement regards sexual boundaries. However we reserve the right to step in and stop shows that we feel are unsafe. An improv scene is not an excuse to be a creep!


Regardless of the artistic choice of the group we can not allow any of the following on stage:


- Groping.

- Touching of sexual areas or erogenous zones.

- Simulated sex.

- Rape scenes or sexual abuse scenes.

- Sexual aggression.


Yes, some theatre companies may choose to explore the above using improvisation, but we’re a comedy club at heart and have a lot of beginners performing with us so we can’t take the risk and would rather keep the place safe for all above everything else.


The following are allowed on our stage, if all individuals in a group are comfortable:


- Hugging.

- Cuddling (with respect).

- Hand holding.

- Flirting.

- Kissing on cheek.

- Embracing.

- Touching non sexual/erogenous areas.

- For stage kissing please see separate section below.


Stage Kissing


Whether or not stage kissing is allowed is the choice of the performing group and should only be allowed if the group have spoken about it already and checked in with everyone that they are happy for this to be part of the show.


If you haven’t spoken to everyone in your group about this, then stage kissing is not appropriate.

If you are performing with a group with people you have just met, then stage kissing is not appropriate.

If you are a guest performer, then stage kissing is not appropriate.

If you are in an impro jam or end of course show, then stage kissing is not appropriate.


Please note that its a stage kiss not a real kiss. An improv scene is not an excuse to be a creep!


On Stage Character Views are different from the Off-Stage Actor


Just because you’ve played a love story on stage with someone on stage for 40 minutes, and explored the huge emotions in the moment, it doesn’t mean they are now in love with you in real life. So please don’t act like they are in the bar after the show!


Also if someone has played a Trump supporter for 40 minutes on stage, and has explored the views of that character, it doesn’t mean they hold those views in real life.


Improvisers are able to display the full range of human life and character on stage, including people different from themselves, as long as this is done in a safe and emotionally intelligent way.


Playing characters with prejudiced viewpoints (sexist, racist , homophobic etc)


We don’t encourage playing characters with prejudiced viewpoints simply to get laughs, especially if the laughs are the expense of the victimised group. We reserve the right to talk to improvisers and groups who repeatedly try and play those characters to get cheap laughs, and may ask them to change their direction pr not ask them to perform again.


However it is occasionally necessary to play a character with prejudiced viewpoints to explore a certain theme and story, and this is ok as long as it is the artistic choice of the group, and the scene is to be treated with full emotional intelligence and the themes and moral implications of those viewpoints fully explored in the ongoing story in an intelligent manner.


The film Schindler’s List couldn’t exist without actors playing Nazis, but the message of the film isn’t “Nazis are funny” instead it’s that one person’s actions can save lives even when standing up to an overwhelming oppressive State. Improv scenes can also explore themes with intelligence and morality, as long as the cast support each other and deal with the theme intelligently.


For example an actor might been endowed as a prejudiced character by another improviser. Or the audience suggestion suggests the exploration of a prejudiced character and the emotional impact of those views. Or the scene or story in general could explore a theme of a certain prejudice and its emotional impacts, for instance inspired by a real life experience expressed in the monologue in the opening of a long-form.


So in a nutshell: don’t play prejudiced characters just to get cheap laughs or to defend your own vulnerability on stage, but you may play them if it’s part of an overall story that is dealt with intelligently to explore those issues fully.


However if someone always or often plays sexist, racist, homophobic or otherwise offensive characters then there may be a problem. This can happen for many reasons. They should be first coached by the director to play more vulnerable and loving characters on stage, as sometimes being aggressive on stage is a defence mechanism. If that doesn’t work they can also be spoken to in private, but only if the director feels safe to do so. You may also escalate this to the head of company or a diversity officer. The person or group may be asked to leave the venue, and not booked again,  if we feel that they are using the medium of impro to practice dangerous or offensive behaviours or to force prejudiced views.


Sexist or Racist Endowment Offers


If a student has a habit of repeatedly casting/endowing others as degrading or sexist or racist roles we reserve the right to talk to them or the group afterwards to help this to change in the future, even if it’s a guest group performing at our venue.


This goes back to the improv cores of making each other look good and supporting each other, and giving offers that the other person would want to do.


We can also help coach the strengthening of offers that can be done by the improviser receiving the casting offer, to avoid ongoing gender or other stereotypes, while also coaching the person giving the offer to go for more varied characters. For instance the casting of someone as “Mother” or “Wife” doesn’t necessarily have to put them in a lower status position, as there is a lot more to “Mother” or “Wife” than the 2D stereotype and both roles can be very strong.


For instance:


Character A: “My lovely wife please come in here”

Character B: “Yes dear, just coming, your dinner is ready”


Could be side-coached to:


Character A: “My lovely wife please come in here”

Character B (enters holding medal): “Oh wow, I love it! A welcome home meal, that’s so kind of you! You know winning gold in Olympic rowing was great, thank you for all your support.”


Again remember we’d be coaching both sides in this scene, one on how to deal with possibly sexist offers and the other on how to give more inspiring offers in the first place.


Yes And is less important than safety, integrity and emotional honesty


Yes And isn’t always blind agreement to just go along with whatever the other person says, especially if what they offer is physically dangerous, sexually degrading or inappropriate. Instead we give permission to improvisers to play more real to those offers and respond with integrity, honesty and emotional intelligence.


For instance in the following scene set in an office break room:


Colleague A: Oh hi, you work in accounts don’t you?

Colleague B: That’s right.

Colleague A: I think you’re really attractive, would you like to have sex?

Colleague B: Yes And!


Could instead be played to explore the consequences of those actions and the ongoing story of the scene.


Colleague A: Oh hi, you work in accounts don’t you?

Colleague B: That’s right.

Colleague A: I think you’re really attractive, would you like to have sex?

Colleague B: What? No, of course not. That’s really inappropriate.

Colleague A: Oh, shit, errr, I feel shitty.

Colleague B: You should.

Colleague A: I don’t know why I said that.

Colleague B: Well you did, and I’m going to speak to the manager.

Colleague A: Please don’t! I need this job!

Colleague B: You should have thought of that before you were such a fucking creep.


Again, you don’t have to Yes And something you are not comfortable with.


And also remember you are totally ok to just leave the stage and not improvise with someone, and will not be in any trouble for doing that. The show, the ticket sales, the audience reaction are all less important than the safety of the improvisers on stage.


After the scene the actor playing Colleague A could be spoken to and presented with different choices they could have made, especially if they tend to give similar offers in other scenes. This is so the responsibility of the scene doesn’t just sit with the Colleague B actor, but the actor that initiated the sex discussion/difficult offer can also be coached into how to support the other person. Otherwise we’d end up with two types of improvisers only - either wildly disruptive or running around putting all the pieces back together and keeping it safe. In reality it’s nice to share responsibility, we can be spontaneous knowing that if something difficult pops up we will supported intelligently with it by our teammates and ourselves and will be able to make a beautiful story from it.


If groups need help with this we are available. We also reserve the right to talk to groups about these kind of scenes after shows, if they are performing at our venue we may have to make requests that help the overall safe space of the venue.


Playing different nationalities


Students can play different nationalities & accents in shows as a healthy part of exploring character. However playing accents of a different ethnic origin, especially of a different skin colour, can be perceived as racist to an audience even if that was not the intention of the actor.


As a rule of thumb the joke/game of the scene shouldn’t be “look at this funny sounding foreign person”. If playing someone of a different ethnic background the character should be played at top of intelligence and with respect.


Playing Different Genders


Students can play different genders in scenes including male, female, transgender and others. The director of the show should coach them into playing this at the top of the intelligence and with respect to that character, empathising with the character rather than playing it to mock or laugh at them.


Playing Different Sexual Orientations


Students can play different sexual orientations in scenes including heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual and more. The director of the show should coach them into playing this at the top of the intelligence and with respect to that character, empathising with the character rather than playing it to mock or laugh at them.

   


Other Links:


>> Code of Conduct Policy for Students on Courses.


>> Code of Conduct Policy for Teachers.


>> Teaching Guide for Teachers.


>> Diversity and Accessibility Policy.



This document is open to feedback:


Our Code of Conduct & Diversity Policies come from recent consultation with various improvisers, performers, students and diversity officers.


We also received advice and information from other theatre companies, organisation and unions.


We are now at the stage of receiving public feedback, and we’d appreciate your thoughts. If there is anything you would like to add or change please us at hooplaimpro@gmail.com.