There is no middle ground with improv.
When it's good, it's gut-splittingly funny, but when it's bad, it's painfully awkward. Luckily, local improv group Script Tease have experienced actor Aude Ray behind them.
The crew formed after Ray lead them in a workshop last year and they seemed to innately gel. "Instead of me teaching the workshops we decided to meet once a week and just rehearse in hopes that we would get gigs," Ray says. "Now we're getting our first gig!"
Their debut will be at The Point Artist-Run Centre on July 27 as part of the Works-In-Progress series. (There's a dinner beforehand and Ray will also be playing with a band for the second half of the show.)
Ahead of the gig, Pique chatted with Ray about the challenges, techniques and secrets to improv.
Pique: What is the key to good improv?
Aude Ray: The trick is to really let go of any expectations. It's like a game. You're free to do what you want with the rules. You have to respect the theme, you have to respect the number of players that have been called up on stage and you have to respect the style... It's important to listen and not speak at the same time. It's all about teamwork. I also found improv reflects life sometimes. It's just really easy to stay stuck and say no. In improv, it's the opposite: you say yes. You go with it, whatever the idea is. That's part of team building when we rehearse. It's about getting to trust each other.
Pique: What do you do if a sketch isn't working?
AR: You have to also realize that improv is made in the moment. If it doesn't work then it doesn't matter because you can just get better next time. Sometimes it happens that it doesn't flow for some reason and we all have our moments, moments of glory and awkwardness.
Pique: Can you bail on a sketch or is there a set time?
AR: There's a set time. Usually what we do with Script Tease is short improv. There are different styles. We do short form. It's a little skit around two minutes. If it goes well it goes like lightning. If it goes wrong it's so long. I think that it's good to learn from it. It's all about finding little tools and giving each other feedback. That's why rehearsal is important. In rehearsal we do improv, but we learn little tricks how to act on the stage and how to make it fun and funny.
Pique: What are your rehearsals like?
AR: We do warm ups, just quick little improv skits where everybody gets in the mood. To do improv you need a lot of energy. It's like a sport. You have to get ready to get the ideas flowing. After doing that we go into scene work. We practice all of the different categories that we're doing in the show. In our team we practice around 30 different styles.
Pique: What are some of those styles?
AR: There's "open" where there's no particular category. You do whatever you want. "Dramatic" with real emotion from the heart kind of scenes, "absurd" where you exaggerate to make it bigger, "narration" where a narrator does the story while actors are coming in when needed, "musical" with singing, dancing and choreography.... The list goes on and on. We made up some also, but it's mostly from everyone's experience.