Improv is a life skill, according to Riva Billows, executive director of Common Crow Improv Co.
“The foundation of improv is accepting offers. It’s this idea of ‘yes, and …,’” Billows says. She explains this spontaneity is something everyone deals with on a daily basis, not just on stage. Because of that, she says, anyone can do improv.
Common Crow is a community-oriented improv group that RobYn Slade and Adam Drory started two years ago. It currently consists of three executive members aside from Billows: Jonathan Mourant, Brigitte Sabourin and Kristina Guevarra.
The members all began doing improv in high school but found that there weren’t many opportunities to practice after they graduated.
Common Crow will host their monthly workshop on Nov. 25, with Tim Gray, comedian and member of the troupe H.U.N.K.S., as workshopper. Gray has been practising improv for the past 10 years. This will be the first workshop he teaches.
“One of my favourite parts about improv … is going for the jokes, making the audience laugh, and being silly and having fun,” he says.
The workshop will focus on building tension by creating anticipation and then breaking the tension with unexpected comedy, Gray says. Participants will also learn about basic joke structure and scene-starting exercises.
“There’s a lot of jokes to be made in the form of scene-painting,” Gray says. He explains that a description of the character or the room can be comedic material.
Gray says many people are concerned that they can ruin a skit and take away from the story with too many jokes, but he disagrees.
“You can … still go for the joke and still make people laugh throughout the whole thing without jeopardizing any kind of emotion you’re going for,” he says.
The workshops are open to all skill levels and average between 10 and 12 participants.
“Part of the fun of it is that you don’t ever really know like who’s going to show up,” Billows says. Last season, the workshops saw about four or five people consistently attending.
Billows explains that the workshop facilitators are welcoming and strive to include shy participants.
“We want to make sure everyone knows that no one is judging you,” Billows says. “There’s no grades in improv, and everyone sort of starts off at the same level.”
According to Billows, the Common Crow motto is “improv is for everyone.” For Gray, improv is all about confident communication.
“Improv just teaches you to quiet that voice in your head that says ‘I don’t want to say something stupid,’” he says.
Billows agrees. Improv is a special skill that comes from the basic philosophy that “beautiful things can come just from one tiny little offer,” she says.
The Common Crow Improv Co. November workshop costs $10 and takes place on Nov. 25 at 12 p.m. at 72 Princess St. Common Crow also puts on bimonthly shows at Forth.
Published in Volume 72, Number 10 of The Uniter (November 16, 2017)