Hoopla’s purpose is to bring the joy of improv to everyone. We aim to make improv fun, friendly, sociable, open and accessible to all.
We’re aiming to not only keep improv fun while social distancing is still in place, but to make it MORE FUN than it ever was before!
We’re improvisers, we can adapt, and there is no reason why safety and fun have to be mutually exclusive. We believe it’s possible to still emotionally, socially and playfully connect at a distance and in fact that could be one of improv’s major new purposes after lockdown!
Here’s some thoughts from our teachers about how this will happen:
All of our games can be adapted
We’ve spent the summer doing Parkprov (improv outside) and have experimented with how to adapt improv with physical distancing in place.
And good news: ALL of our games and show formats can be adapted and are still really fun!
For instance in warm up like Wild West where people usually run through the middle of the circle pretending to be cowboys, they just run outside the circle instead so there is more space. Even games that usually have actual physical contact can be adapted. In Dutch Clapping pairs of people usually clap hands together in the middle, now they do an air clap at a distance and the game still works really well. From our park workshops we discovered that the emotional connection between people was still really strong, in fact stronger than ever.
“We are improvisers and we adapt to things really well. The entire improv scene transitioned to online within a matter of days. We rapidly found that every game we were used to playing in-real-life could be adapted to be played online. I think the same will happen with socially distanced improv. Sure, we can’t clap hands together in Dutch Clapping, but we can air clap, dance on the spot or more! We’ve been creating games and exercises for years. There’s always a way, and working out how to adapt things is all part of the fun.” – Steve Roe
2 metres is not that far!
Measure it out, put it on the floor, take a look. It’s really not that far and you’ve probably done loads of improv at over 2 metres already. Most stages are loads bigger than 2 metres.
“2 metres you can see the subtlety of facial expressions and pick up all emotional cues. 2 metres isn’t as far as you think. I think also, people so rarely touch in improv workshops anyway, it’s basically almost the same! “ – Maria Peters
“I’m writing this at a table that is bigger than 2 metres. If someone was at the end of my dining table talking to me, I wouldn’t struggle to understand them.” – Steve Roe
With practice it will become natural
Improvisers are used to playing with space all the time. Loads of our original warm ups were about people breaking habits and looking at space in new ways. We can do the same again. By using games we can get used to being relaxed at 2 metres or more. We had a subconscious social distance for all of our lives, and this year that has changed. Through practice we will be able to stay playful while keeping the new distance.
From this summer’s Parkprov workshops outside we’ve found it only takes about 10 minutes for people to get used to the new distance in improv, so we are starting each new course with some time on that to help people get used to it. It doesn’t take long and feels natural and fun again really soon.
“People are worried that improvisers in workshops are going to forced to stand in one strict spot with a circle of tape around them. But that isn’t what it will be like. 2 metres will become second nature, it probably is from real life already. We won’t have to be thinking consciously about it all the time and things will still feel really playful.” – Maria Peters
You can still play, lots!
“2 metres doesn’t mean stuck at 2 metres. We can still use movement and do physical improv. It’s not just 2 metres apart standing neutrally. Like old improv, you don’t have to just stand still and talk. You can be characters in their space, moving around and playing physically. You can be two gorillas on a second date. You can be an Alien meeting an Earthling. Your imagination can still run wild.” – Maria Peters
Awesome character work!
“The best improvisers have great spatial awareness, they turn their body positioning into a character choice that informs their scene. Those improvising now will develop that skill fantastically. The improviser’s skill of listening isn’t just about taking verbal offers. Paying attention to the physical is just as important.” – Liam Brennan
“We’ll be focusing on our voice and clarity when we are speaking in scenes. We’re going to become pros at it.” – Liam Brennan
“This era of improv is going to be really good for teaching stage dynamics and stagecraft. So often previously people would only stand in one square metre and talk to each other at a set distance. It will be good to teach how to use the whole space, use big spaces even if there are only 2-3 people on stage, and how much emotion can be communicated by where we stand on stage.” – Maria Peters
You can emotionally connect at a distance!
In fact this is brilliant acting training! The improv scene has grown used to small stages but actors on the West End have to emotionally connect across huge spaces.
We aren’t going to be just emotionally connecting at 2 metres, we’re going to be emotionally connecting at 5 metres, 10 metres, across the road. Let’s emotionally connect to people a mile away!
People on river banks wave at boats and a boat load of strangers wave back. People love connecting at a distance.
In fact this may end up being an amazing new purpose of improv after lockdown.
Eye contact at a distance, body shape, posture, body language, facial expression, movement – all of these are possible and offer endless possibilities of emotional connection and playfulness.
Real-life is full of emotional connections at a distance, like your heart racing when you see someone across the room at a party, we can re-create these in improvisation.
“One of my favourite scenic exercises is playing scenes where you have a strong love or hate towards the other person, but you cannot get close.” – Katy Schutte
Playing with space is fun!
There’s a long history of playing with space between people in improv, all the way back to improv’s origins with Viola Spolin and Keith Johnstone and even further back to Commedia dell’Arte.
Lovers can walk towards each other as if they are going to passionately embrace, but at 4 metres from each other they stop and run away from each other improvising poetry about how much they love the other person but their love is not allowed.
Keith Johnstone’s status work uses loads of status at a distance. For instance in his classic King game a servant will walk towards a King or Queen and get lower as they get towards them and be very conscious of not stepping into their space. With status the whole room becomes alive. How would you feel standing 2 metres away from The Queen?
In a nutshell, if you play as if the space is important, it is. If you decide you have emotional connection at 5m and make it matter, you do.
“A great game for playing with space and character – one of you is tiny, one of you is massive. Don’t look at one another, instead imagine that you’re up on a split screen. One looks up, the other looks down. Perhaps your characters interact (like a giant holding up a pixie in their hand) while still far apart on stage.” Katy Schutte.
Safety and fun aren’t mutually exclusive
In fact in improv you can’t have one without the other. It’s hard to improvise with someone you don’t physically trust. By creating a safe environment where people trust each other they can relax and connect and be spontaneous together.
Lots of the safety guidelines actually make improv better not worse
Workshops are going to have smaller class sizes, which is great for the participants as they get more time on stage and with the teacher.
The focus is going to be on scenes and games with 2-3 people on stage, which was one of the most popular things anyway.
Having a set smaller team for each workshop that you do all the games with is something we often did already, and proved popular because you get to know someone better over the session and bond as improvisers.
The busy days of shows with people standing along the sides and at the back might be gone for now, but in the meantime it’s going to be a more sophisticated cabaret experience at Hoopla. You’ll even have a table to put your drink, luxury!
“I always believe improv is at its best and most funny when it’s relevant and directly inspired by real life. This is something that is impacting the whole world, so by interacting with each other from 2 metres away, we’re being extremely relatable and reminding everyone in the space that we are going through this together. Also, we can get through this and ace this together.” – Liam Brennan
Safety can be communicated in a warm friendly way
- Audiences chairs can be separated by candlelit tables you can put your pint on.
- Empty chairs can be occupied by teddy bears.
- Hand sanitisers can be decorated with glitter.
- Teachers can flag up proximity with a friendly playful bell.
- 2 metres on the floor can be represented by a giant picture of Pickle Rick.
- Teachers and front of staff can be warm and friendly while letting people know how things work.
The new job of the improv scene will be to follow safety guidelines while devising new ways to make things fun. We’re sure the improv scene will rise to the challenge.
Yes improv at a distance is possible.
Yes it will be fun!