Manila Improv Fest MADNESS
Written and photographed
By Jude Bautista
The magic of live theater is the uniqueness of every single performance. That is not more evident than in improv comedy where material is created live on stage as it happens. Improv is where a team asks for a word or phrase and turns it into a skit on stage. Every single actor acts or reacts and improvises creating a story or performance as they go along. An example would be the show WHO’S LINE IS IT ANYWAY with Wayne Brady, Colin Mochrie and Ryan Stiles. It was a hit in 2006 and has a new cast for 2015. The Manila Improv festival features some of the best teams, if not the most enthusiastic from different parts of the world.
From Bacolod and Cagayan De Oro to Warsaw, Poland and Brisbane Australia, they gathered here to share their knowledge and make people howl with laughter. The Tropical Improv Camp was conducted at Siliman University in Dumaguete, Negros Oriental from July 2-5, 2015. Then the madness ensues at the PETA Theater Center from July 8-12, 2015 for the 3rd International Manila Improv Festival. The mornings are actually sectioned off also for improv workshops at the PETA Theater Center during the fest.
One of the biggest laughs came from Impromafia, who are much like meeting Borat’s grandparents, not just with the accents but with the off color comments that come from nowhere and everywhere. Audience participation does take on another level as they consider everyone their ‘grandchildren’ especially the ones they pull on stage. You get drawn into their world and get convinced they ARE your grandparents; it doesn’t matter if you’re from Eastern Europe or the Philippines. Lolos and Lolas can be tough, swearing, doting and yes hilarious. Of course everyone can relate to the insults and barbs between family members.
The Impromafia from Brisbane, Australia is composed of Amy Currie and Luke Rimmelzwaan. Amy says her own grandmother who is Russian inspired her, “She may not have that exact accent but can certainly be doting.” Luke who is of Dutch descent tried his grandparents accents but sounded too much like English. So in came the Eastern European accent.
Luke Rimmelzwaan explained how they devised their shtick, “Our theme, the one you just saw is called House from the Old Country. How that one works, Amy and I used to get drunk and we play these characters. We had a really good time doing it. There was an improv competition and lets see if we can do something with this. There’s no form to it. Our structure is two chairs, cookies and everyone else. We really rely on the audience to buy into us as being authority figures, parents or grandparents. Once you do that its jus about playing with the audience. What we’re trying to do is a show involving everyone in the audience or being involved rather than just being someone who watches. Apart from that its completely free form; two voices, its just two people, who love each other but would never tell each other ever.”
The Beijing Collective
Is composed of Dave Cooper, Liz Ashforth and Jay Wang. Dave looks more like a grown up version of Dexter in Dexter’s Laboratory. It wasn’t just his improvised Austrian scientist character but more of the thick glasses, glaring eyes and wild hair. Jay Wang also has numerous accents at his disposal. Filipinos will recognize his striking resemblance to rock star Chito Miranda of PAROKYA NI EDGAR. Liz has that wild, untamed edgy look with her blonde dreadlocks which apparently works well for comedy too. They work wonderfully as a team feeding off each other’s lines and unhampered imagination.
Dave Cooper was also able to talk about their process when given a key word, “When we’re given an ‘offer’ a word, there’s lots of common words that people like to say like spatula. Whatever word you get there’s always a way to take that word and find something new. If you look at our set we took ‘open gate’. And we didn’t know what to do with an open gate. What we did was what does an open gate remind us of? We stepped through and found a connection to something else. Which found a connection to Germans and sausages and sauerkraut and all sorts of crazy, crazy stuff. Our improv is very grounded in reality. We do it based on emotion and getting very sad or very happy or whatever. But today we opened the gate of the Silly People’s Improv. We got silly, we had a good time thank you.”
What do you get when you put together 3 Americans: John Maloney, Dennis Dziedzic, Amanda Bishop and one South African (Josh Myers) based in Taichung Taiwan? You get the inventive Taichung Improv. The whole group is composed of far more expats and Taiwanese citizens, but it’s this quartet that shared their love for improv games for this fest.
They distinguish themselves by adding the element of competition in their act. A profession is asked from the audience. People got to vote who they liked the least and are eliminated one by one. The hilarity comes when the remaining ‘cast’ takes up the lines and reaction of the eliminated group member. The piece ends with one actor doing/imitating all the lines and actions of all cast members in one weird, comic (and difficult) scene.
The group is actually from different cities in Taiwan as John Maloney explains, “This is our first show in 2 years with Amanda. Our group is spread out. Tai Chung is the home base. I live in Gao Jung about 2 hours away. How do we bond? We play. We play together. Even if we’re apart for a year we come back together and that sense of play and trust, getting out there and taking risks that’s what brings people together. So even though time and distance sometimes separate us this brings us together as a family.”
Silly People’s Improv Theater is not only the most established improvisational theater in the country but in Southeast Asia. 13 years in existence they have represented the Philippines in improv festivals held in cities like L.A., Hong Kong, New York City, Chicago and Amsterdam. They are also the producers of the Manila Improv Festival.
Is it because of the complete number of members here or their youth? But they may have the most sexually appealing casts: Missy Maramara, voluptuous Chal Lontoc Del Rosario, hunky Ariel Diccion, tall drink of water host Aryn Cristobal. For the opening they dug deep, shared their awkward adolescent and college days all from the word: cheerleader.
It’s only the third year for the Manila Improv Festival, but soon as the word spreads how funny and educational (from the workshops) this festival is it may become an even bigger international affair. Mike Staffa from Pirates of Tokyo Bay described the Manila Improv Fest as, “A blast and July has always been kept clear off our calendars for this event.”
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This entry was posted on July 9, 2015 by jude bautista. It was filed under Art, Film, People, Theater, TV and was tagged with 3rd International Manila Improv Festival, accents, Amanda Bishop, Americans, Amsterdam, Amy Currie, Ariel Diccion, Aryn Cristobal, Audience participation, Australia, Austrian scientist, authority figures, Bacolod, blonde dreadlocks, Borat’s grandparents, Brisbane, Cagayan De Oro, Chal Lontoc Del Rosario, character, cheerleader, Chicago, Chito Miranda, Colin Mochrie, comedy, Dave Cooper, Dennis Dziedzic, Dexter, Dexter’s Laboratory, doting, drunk, Dumaguete, Dutch, Eastern Europe, expats, family members, free form, Gao Jung, glaring eyes, grandchildren, grandmother, grandparents, hilarious, Hong Kong, House from the Old Country, hunky, Impromafia, Improv, improv comedy, improv competition, improv festivals, improv games, improv workshops, Jay Wang, John Mahoney, Josh Myers, L.A., live theater, Liz Ashforth, Lola, Lolo, Luke Rimmelzwaan, Manila Improv Festival, Mike Staffa, Missy Maramara, Negros Oriental, New York City, parents, Parokya Ni Edgar, PETA, PETA Theater Center, Philippines, Pirates of Tokyo Bay, Poland, producers, quartet, rock star, Russian, Ryan Stiles, sexually appealing, shtick, Siliman University, Silly People's Improv Theater, South African, Southeast Asia, SPIT, swearing, Taichung, Taichung Improv, Taiwan, Taiwanese citizens, The Manila Improv festival, theme, thick glasses, tough, Tropical Improv Camp, unhampered imagination, voluptuous, Warsaw, Wayne Brady, WHO’S LINE IS IT ANYWAY, wild hair.