Thursday, March 15, 2007

2007: An Improv Oddyssey: Part One: A New Hope

So, the AUIC (that's the Atlantic University Improv Challenge, for those not in the know). It's a friendly little competition, held annually around the Maritimes. This year, it was held in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, and attended by teams from Acadia University, University of Cape Breton, King's College and, of course, Mount Allison.

Our trip begins on Friday the 9th, as we depart Sackville with a Ford Explorer full of luggage and a pocketful of dreams. It's about a three-hour trip to get to Wolfville, and we arrive shortly after sundown. Wolfville, as it turns out, is a lot like Sackville; a small, picturesque little town with a small movie theater, a few bars, shops and restaurants and a lot of university-related events on the social calendar. After navigating the treacherous maze of the university roads in the dark, we hopped out of the car and made our way to the Improv Showcase, where each team puts on a 25 minute set, just for fun. We didn't go on until the end, by which time most of the audience had left. You see, a member of another team went on stage drunk, and pretended to rub his crotch, bleed, vomit and vomit blood during his scenes. With kids and families in the audience. Needless to say, the place was pretty much cleared out by the time SUSHI went on, but it was still a good show. After that, I went with Luke to see the Jimmy Swift Band at a local venue (they were awesome, by the way) before heading to our place for the night. We were put up at the house of Tom, a superb host and our guide to all things Wolfville.

The next day, we arose early to search the mean streets of Wolfville and find some breakfast. In case the suspense is killing you, yes, we found some breakfast and yes, it was delicious. We make our way back to the Acadia Student Union building where, there's a farmer's market happening in the lobby. I buy some delicious natural apple juice and SUSHI regroups to begin practicing. We start warming up, and we're quickly joined by some other teams and some small children who are playing in the same room - it's like that old commercial about teaching the world to sing by buying everyone a Coke, except instead of Coke, it's ice cold Improv refreshment. After a free pizza lunch (three of my favorite words, especially when used together), the improv workshop starts. It's taught by a local improv guru named Eric Davis, who has us run through a few exercises to build up our improv game. Here they are:

1) "Yes, and.": You get a suggestion for a scene, and you act it out. Thing is, every line after the first one has to start with the words "yes and", which forces you to build on the last sentence to improve the scene, instead of just dilly dallying. It works like a charm, but the words "yes and" will be seared into your brain for weeks.

2) This one didn't have a name, so I think I'll call it "A Sea Lion Named MacGyver.": You act out a scene with a partner. But you can't look at them. A useful tool indeed, and it resulted in a hilarious scene where one person was paddling a boat, while the other did a large hit of heroin. Weirder still, their suggestion was "pantry."

We left the workshop, ready for the final event; the actual improv challenge. Were we victorious? Defeated? Befuddled? Tune in tomorrow: same blog time, same blog channel!

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