"All art is quite useless" -Oscar Wilde

"Don't romaticise your 'vocation.' You can either write good sentences or you can't. There is no 'writer's lifestyle.' All that matter is what you leave on the page." -Zadie Smith

"Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting, struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness" -George Orwell

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Combat Improv thriving

This is an article I wrote last semester. Since it's not up anywhere else, and, right now, my blog is hurting for posts, I decided to throw it up.

In the fall of 1997 Judy Wensel received permission to run a weekly improv show out of the now defunct Manhattan Room. Featuring a rotating cast of eight performers and 10 to 20 audience members, Regina’s Combat Improv was humbly born.

Now, beginning its fourth season this Wednesday, Combat Improv has hit its stride. In its new home, The Saskatchewan Cultural Exchange Society, or “the Exchange,” as it is colloquially known, Combat puts on 10 shows a year. These shows, on the last Wednesday of every month, average an audience of between 100 to150 people.

The group’s success can be attributed to the skill and insight of the performers. “Combat Improv is dedicated to improving skills rather than dumb comedy... it is less gamey, more artistic and theatre oriented,” said Mike Gill, improver of five years.

Jayden Pfeifer, founder of Regina’s General Fools and regional CIG director agrees. “It works because the people are talented and consistently turn out a quality show. It is also funny, but not in a forced way,” he said.

Not forcing the joke is important Pfeifer explained. “Improv is always funny. It doesn’t have a choice, so forcing it only cheapens it” he said. The quality means a devoted and respectful audience which associate improv with a good time, not with being “the drunk uncle of theatre.”

Aside from Combat, Regina has a thriving improve scene disproportionate to the size of our city, both in terms of quality and quantity. Many high schools have well established CIG programs, three of which have won the national title. CIG, or The Canadian Improv Games, is a cross-Canada high school competition where improvers form scenes based on suggestions from the audience.

After high school performers can continue with groups such as Combat or Mix Improv. The General Fools, however, is the heart of Regina Improv. The 13-year-old original group was Regina’s original post CIG group. Nationally renowned, they have inspired many to improvise, both during and after high school. Although now only having the occasional reunion show, the Fools host the General Fools Festival, which brings in teams from across Canada and 1,400 audience members over three days.

Lee Boyes, improver of 17 years, has been with Combat since the Manhattan Room and is confident improv has a healthy future in Regina. “Combat Improv will continue to bring improvisers of all ages together and keep on growing,” he said.