Zur deutschen Versionfrom macro and Thomas Jäkel:
AMSTERDAM- The 20th International Improvisation Theater Festival Amsterdam began after opening night January 26th with a first full day of workshops and a packed program of shows. The evening began with an open stage deftly led by Ryan Miller.
Action Theater with Sten Rudstrom
Together with six players from the festival ensemble, and after just one day of preparation, Sten Rudstrøm brought his Action Theater format to the stage in front of a sold-out Grote Zaal (Great Hall) in the Compagnie Amsterdam Theater. The players, all dressed in black and barefoot, begin without a suggestion. Every minute detail becomes an offer that, expanded and mirrored by the other players, builds up a common dynamic. The result is a very physical, almost dance-like performance that includes only a few words or sentences. Spoken words are repeated and deconstructed until this initiates a new inspiration. Three factors determine the aesthetic: space, timing and composition.
The players – Anja Boorsma, Nicole Mischler, Camilla Frey, Nils Petter Mørland, Rafe Chase and Stephen Kearin, in addition to Sten Rudstrøm – showed how little language is necessary to tell touching stories and create powerful images. A consistently exciting show.
Improv Comedy with Ma & Pa
The evening continued with a diametrically opposite approach – Mary Peters & Pippa Evans as the duo Ma & Pa acknowledged their passion for talking and therefore for improv. As a starting point, the two players from London took two words that then combined into a Word Smash – Astronaut and Frisbee became Fristronaut. The two used that to begin chatting about anecdotes from their lives, which then served as inspiration for the following scenes.
In these relatively short scenes they slipped into exaggerated characters and began in the middle of high-stakes situations. The comedy developed through witty repartee, courageous displays of ugliness and pithy statements. Often, however, an exploration of deeper levels was abbreviated prematurely with a song from one of the two excellent singers. It was disappointing to see so little risk-taking from such strong players. In the end, however, the audience obviously enjoyed Ma & Pa.
The Naked Stage with Tim Orr
Tim Orr (BATS Improv, San Francisco) has been developing the one-act format The Naked Stage for the past 15 years. For the festival he worked on this format with The Dutch Collective in an intensive workshop. Together with Orr the 5 players from Amsterdam made their debut in the format as part of the evening program.
In The Naked Stage, everything takes place in a continuous scene. There are no cinematic cuts or time jumps. The space is initially constructed by the players incl. entrances/exits. More suggestions were obtained for space while players were on the stage, not only filling the space (in this case, a roof terrace with sofa, refrigerator, etc.), but also challenging the players’ memories. Now settled in this fixed location, the characters relaxed into knowing each other and sometimes getting to know each other. After the show Orr described the format’s challenge as not determining the conflict but letting it come up organically.
Please sir, can I have some more?
The setting had quite a bit of dramatic potential, as a piece of graffiti on the wall noted that Bart was there. The players incorporated this suggestion into the plot through an unhappy love story and Bart’s suicide long ago, just because of the graffiti. However, this story did not seem to really affect the still-living characters and we were left wanting more than 40 minutes to discover how the story developed.
The challenge of playing a long form in one place is very interesting and requires training different improv muscles than the usual. The reward is the deeper development of complex characters and we would love to taste more of the fruits of this labor!
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