Impro World Tour

Ramblings and Wonderings of a world of Improvisation

The Journey, The Destination


Bogota Colombia.  April 3.   Camilo from PICNIC IMPRO drops me a note!  “HEY SHAWN!  I will come by and take you some place in Bogota!”

We walk down the street with the question of where to go.  Ah! OK, we will go to the coffee place.  But, rodents and mystics disrupt that plan.

As we walk, we see a crowd of people from all areas of society – children, businessmen, old people, men, women and even a military guy.  We bend our path and investigate.  It seems that it’s a “mystic” handing out blessings.  I’ve never seen it before but the thing that looks like a street act is a modern mystic entrancing a crowd.

A little further down the street are three elderly people.  One is dressed all in white, with a top hat and is lip syncing to an amplified bit of jazz while an elderly woman and man do a crazy happy dance. Were they an old performing group?  No time to ask them.  They start dancing again.street dance

Then there’s a strange machine that seems like it MIGHT want to make ice cream but it dances on the road so violently that all  that is makes is noise.

And 4 or 5 crazy things later there’s the Guinea pig races… I’ve never seen such patient, well trained Guinea pigs. They are lined up at one end of the street and people place money on colourful Guinea Pig guinea pigs in Bogotahomes hoping to bet on the right rodent.

SO!… Here’s my point.  Once and a while consider that the destination as interesting as it might be will wait for you.  Be present and participate in the journey.  Listen to the music, watch the people, bet on a little furry creature.  The destination will wait for you.

As an improviser approach your work like a walk in an interesting neighbourhood.  Let your path bend when something more interesting presents itself.  Give up control to the moment.  Your story will be richer than what it could be than if you follow your safe path rigidly like an obedient donkey.

Oh… did I mention the Donkeys?  boys and burros

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Anna Freud said, “Creative minds have always been known to survive any kind of bad training.”

Yes… well… This was 10 minutes ago:

I’m on a bus… watching a mother with her 6 year old daughter.

Mom is disconnected from the smiley little girl.  She’s sucking away on her Starbucks drink while she texts and talks on her “smart phone”. The mother’s friend is about the same age (late 20’s) She is doing the same as the mother. The little girl sits between them like  a little pink book between cold dark bookends.

The little dark haired girl is holding a yellow flower and touching the petals just like the adults are  touching the phones. The kid is singing happily to herself and the daisy.

The mother looks down… She says, “STOP SINGING!   You are always singing.  Stop it”.

The kid shuts up.  But she  doesn’t lose her positive quality.  (that will happen soon I fear).

Just as I go to get off the bus, the little girl starts singing again.
There’s hope.

The problem is with Anna Freud’s thoughts that “Creative minds have always been known to survive any kind of bad training” is that the minds that do not survive are the one’s we see everyday on buses with “smart phones” telling their children to “STOP SINGING”…

Keep singing.
Draw outside the lines.
Write poetry because you want to
Break some rules occasionally



What’s the BEST thing I could write??!!?  That’s why there’s not more writing here in the old blogosphere! You think, “What would be good to write here? What would be REALLY special??! WHAT WOULD BE SO MIND BLOWING AWESOMELY AMAZING THAT IT WOULD MAKE PEOPLE’S EYES WATER WITH VISUAL DELIGHT??!!?” And then you think of it.

You come up with something REALLY GOOD.

And then you think… OK… Got it. But… IF I came up with something that’s good, I must have something better. Ohhh something really blindingly spine bending.

Then you come up with it. YES!!!

Then what do you do?!? (Come on, you know where I’m going).


And ten months later you are coming up with this Skin ripping eye burning, jaw clenching monkey twisting fantastic stuff that NOBODY will ever know about because you are always thinking, IT ISN’T GOOD ENOUGH.

Happens all the time. The first TV show is OK. You turn the channel… and again you turn the channel. In the 10,000 channel reality, you turn the channel for a half an hour and decide on the show you originaly thought was pretty decent. Then you realised it’s just about done because you’ve been looking forward instead of seeing what’s in front of you.

How many of you are in relationships and looking out at someone else and thinking of “TRADING UP” if you know what i mean? “I can do better than you!”

Yeah… I’ll tell you something; the unknown new exciting person is going to often look on the surface better than the old, known ‘significant other’ whom you’ve heard fart, seen in sickness and heard YELL at you about something insane (it’s always about something insane).

I’m not saying settle. I’m just explaining ONE reason why I don’t write as much as I could write. Also… I am explaining why as improvisers people often mess up their work.

Stop LOOKING so hard. Express NOW. There probably IS a better idea but there are a lot of worse ideas too and if you look too hard, no matter how good the idea is, everyone will be unimpressed because the birth of the idea, word or thought was just too painful to watch.


Advanced improvisation versus Basics… Young and Old… Strength and Weakness…


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Death and Life and Improvisation…



Death and Life was a theme in Bogota.

Ahhhhhh Bogota Colombia. My time has ended here but the memories give birth to inspiration and new ideas. The International festival featured individuals from Germany, Argentina, Colombia and Canada.

One of my fondest memories was the show on Friday night.

If you have never heard an audience truly  connected in varied states of emotional reaction then you haven’t really felt the power that improvisation has.  There were moans of sadness, screams of anger, oceans of laughter and other varied pockets of emotions for the show. It’s everything an improvisation group would hope for.

A man working on cars in Bogota

The audience left with big smiles and a warm glow. Many audience members stayed behind to meet the cast and hang out with each other at the front entrance of the theatre. Creating the environment where people don’t want to leave means they will likely return.

On stage an Improviser comes up with an idea.  IT’S A GREAT IDEA!  But… the story on stage changes and no longer fits with the story in the improvisers mind.  The greedy improviser holds on to his personal vision and the scene dies.  The smart improviser kills his idea to make room for the birth of the new story.

One of the nice elements in the show was the balanced fight for the integrity of the scene versus the playful nature of the improvisers. It’s exciting when there is danger that the whole train might go off the tracks and over the edge of mayhem but it is pulled back just in time.

The improvised play where a man battles death and finally embraces it after a long battle had the audience emotionally engaged on many levels. Equally engaging was the gibberish play in Japanese Gibberish of a man looking for the meaning of life and finding it in love only to lose it and find it again in death.

The audience was given the choice to see the ending of just ONE of the two plays above.  They wouldn’t alow that choice to exist.  They yelled until they saw both.

During one of the workshops, one of the students came to an understanding that Improvisation can be more than gags and cheap laughs. He asked how they could re-train their audience to see the worth of a complete meal of improvisation where they had become used to evening of just candy.

I suggested they shouldn’t be scared to kill their audience.

By working towards what would inspire themselves to grow, they might lose some audience members but would eventually gain a crowd that would come back more healthy week after week after week for something that fed them on many levels rather than something that became predictable.

The Theatresports match on Thursday was a great learning experience for the audience and cast. The show built slowly and in a perfect arc that shows should have. The audience went from passive theatre watchers, to people who yelled at judges and cheered for their favourite performers.

Seeing people who have never performed before bravely risk standing on stage,  giving birth to what will hopefull be long lives of stage improvisation was a pleasure.

Bogota BoyIn the note session after the show there was some comment from people feeling they didn’t get enough time on stage.  In the discussion that followed  I hope that there was a realisation that the show was for the audience. Where the performers can kill their ego and fear to enhance the audience experience, then the improvisers will have grown to a stronger state.

Everyone involved in Lagata’s international Impro festival felt a sense of loss at the end at the same time they felt gifted with the tools of new inspiration to create new and equally inspiring work.

Now it’s done. What comes next?

For me…  Peru.


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