I’m writing this on the train back from The Maydays Improv Retreat at Osho Leela in Dorset. I had such an amazingly lovely time that I want to get my thoughts and memories down before they get swallowed up by Clapham Junction.
So here’s my random thoughts, memories and feelings from The Maydays retreat this year:
- Bonfires are fun.
- The more you see and speak to people the easier it is to improvise with them.
- Playing board games is fun, and helps bond a cast.
- People flourish when they are in a supportive environment where it is ok to take risks and make mistakes.
- Beginners to improv are awesome.
- Improv, clown and Meisner Technique all compliment each other very well and have more connections that I first thought.
- Joe Samuel is an amazing musician.
- The Maydays have really created an amazing thing and do an incredible job of organising it all.
- Different improvisers, improv companies and improv styles can work together very well and have more in common than they first thought.
- People can surprise themselves with what they can do when take a leap and have a supportive network around them.
- You don’t have to know why you are moving in an improv scene, you can move first and justify why later.
- You can use your real thoughts and feelings in an improv scene.
- It’s easier to give up meat than chocolate.
- Sharing a room with Chris Mead is fun, and he doesn’t snore.
- Don’t punch a bonfire, even if it’s funny.
- Being off phones and computers is good, and natural conversations soon replace them.
- There is a big improv scene across the whole of the UK which is now becoming nicely connected.
- Project2 performed a show so good it temporarily changed our perception of reality.
- People of different levels of experience can work together on the same show and make it amazing.
- People are inherently good and want others to do well.
- It doesn’t matter who you are, how old you are, what your background is, what you look like, everyone can improvise.
- I blubbed a tear backstage with The Original Sinners, when I realised our job is to spread love into the each other, the audience and world.
- Improv is a constructive thing and the world needs it.
- Connected to improv is the love of fellow humans, no matter who they are, and the belief that people can work together creatively and collaboratively to create beautiful things.
- There are a million fun offers happening all the time.
- Performing with The Maydays is the most fun ever.
A big theme that popped up for me in workshops is using the real emotions you are actually having in a scene and channeling into the scene and your character. I found giving people permission to really express how they were actually feeling let scenes go to richer places.
I think often when we improvises there is the thought as ‘the character’ but also an internal voice we have as ‘the improviser’ about the scene or show is going. But actually we can grab the thoughts and feelings we have as an improviser about the scene and channel them into the character.
Everything is an offer. Everything you are thinking and feeling on stage is the character’s thought’s and feelings.
You are nervous about getting up on stage? Use it. That’s the character being nervous about the situation they are in.
Your scene partner has done something to annoy you? Use it. That’s the other character who has done something to annoy your character.
You want to leave the stage because you think the scene is going badly? Use it. That’s your character wanting to leave, that’s an impulse you can use.
You don’t know what to say? Use it. That’s the character not knowing what to say. You can say in the scene “I don’t know what to say” and it can be a very powerful line.
You feel lost, confused, embarrassed? Use it. That’s your character feeling that because of the situation you are in. You have permission to be lost, confused, scared, angry, sad, happy, annoyed, vulnerable, embarrassed and more in improv. They are all great character feelings, and inspire great moments, and add an emotional variety to a show that demonstrates what it’s like to be human.
Scripted actors have to rehearse for weeks to get a real emotion on stage that serves the script. Improvisers have real emotions there and then, straight away, that they can bring on stage. Improvisation can be emotionally real right from the start, all the way through. Lucky us!
When encouraged and supported by their team improvisers can be emotionally honest moment by moment, using their real thoughts and feelings there and then until there is no gap between improviser and character, and no inner critic telling us what we can and can’t do. I think this is when we experience being in flow, or as improvisers say “out of our heads”.
The Maydays create such an amazingly supportive place that it really is very special to be part of. If just 1% of Osho Leela makes it back on this train I’ll be laughing for the rest of the year.
If you do get the chance to go (there’s another one in September) I highly recommend it, I think it’s the ultimate improv experience.
Most of all though, please don’t punch a bonfire, even if it’s funny. That’s just stupid.