Crumbs in Berlin 2008
Berlin again had their infamous International Improv Festival (impro 2008). The festival this year was riddled with controversy, like it is every year. We had, first of all, the yearly bouts of festival diseases (this year we had two! very exciting). Half the players got colds (sinus and throat) half go the flu (one day of throw-ups) and one half got shit for being in a mathematical impossibility and quickly imploded into a cloud of non-existence. Allow me to elaborate on the feats of the Berlin International Improv Festival.
First, the diseases. It is a known fact (known to science at least) that any time a festival is put on, and participants are flown into a city to congregate, there always is a micro-pandemic. The social climate is ripe for virus and bacteria to blossom like the spring flowers of, well, spring. Late night shows followed by early workshops during the day ensure that sleep levels are kept low. Add in the high frequency of red wine, beer and other types of liquid anti-health, and you have a recipe for a festival. True, it would be nice to be able to fully enjoy a city and the festival, be at the top of your game for the workshops and shows, but if health was maintained throughout the duration of the festival, you would surely be creeped out, and a psychological disorder would then replace the physical ills. Science can prove it.
Secondly, let me assure you that the shows were stellar, the diseases barely registered (and the stage is a great temporary cure for whatever ails you). Many improvisers and other performers know that the magic of the stage can subside most if not all symptoms of any known disease. You will exit the stage feeling completely cured only to feel the slow rush of the sick as it retakes lost positions at the front lines of the everlasting health wars. We all worked with Stephen Nachmonovitch who wrote the book "free play" and has had it just recently translated into German (new title "the Toa of creativity"). The workshops were alright, nothing really all that new, we already had most of what he had in our own language already, but like anything, it is up top the student to meet the teacher halfway and pull what is needed at any given time. The shows that we created, inspired by the workshops were hit and miss (i am pretty sure it is safe to say that was the consensus). We would either venture to far into the known habits of our regular long form improv shows, or we would get lost to far down the paths of abstract pretentious art wanks. The moments of the happy medium we fleeting, but beautiful. I do think that it is important to shake from the safety of what we know and take risks, we just have to remember that the audience must remain engaged, and jeez, we have to have fun doing it.
Thirdly, I would like to share two disaster stories with you. The first involves Bruno (from France) the other involves the Bright Blue Gorillas (from LA). I am sorry, but i must share these stories.
When Bruno left the Festival (he had to leave early for other gigs) he left with disaster in his wake. He was sick during the day of his departure but got healthy enough to perform in the show that night. After the show he started to feel unwell again, but was putting on a good face. It was time for everyone to say goodbye to Bruno, everyone raised a glass for him. he turned around and almost on cue (with impeccable comedic timing) collapsed to the floor. The comedic timing was so perfect in fact, that nobody flinched, in fact, everyone cheered and laughed. He didn't budge, Bruno just lied there motionless. People started to chant "Bruno is Dead!". He still did not move. Then someone noticed the blood...
After some calls to the ambulance, a lot of blood and a broken nose, the party just never got back to the same level. Bruno ended up okay, got back home to France. But, I will never forget, that even in his daze of sickness and exhaustion, his body and being still had the comedic timing so strong it over took everything else, and was even a detriment to his physical well being. Comedy wins.
Bright Blue Gorillas:
These are two hippies from LA who are street performers. They belong on the street and not in an Improv Festival. they even did their "hat pitch" live onstage (which i wasn't the only one to think was in poor taste). The show was riddled with cliches (and not in a good way), the show was also not riddled with irony (and not in a good way). Some people enjoyed the show, and good on them, there is now accounting for taste, and who am I to say what is good and what is bad. What I can say is that I did not like their flavour, and my reflex was to spit them out as soon as they were in my mouth (not a nice image, I am sorry). Check them out if you dare (I have given you fair warning).
Fourthly, I would like to end this post with good news. This good news is about the success of one Tyler Sneesby (aka Dj Hunnicutt). He won over hearts and minds. Hearts with his warm heart and charm. Mind with his deaf defying dj skills and ability to score improvised theatre in a way that nobody thought possible. It turns out that we (crumbs) like him too and already miss him on our travels. It looks like he will be coming with us on more touring adventures (with a little luck that is).
Stay tuned (can you say tuned on a Blog?) for the next post on this exciting tour (yes, very exciting)...