Canadian Theatre Review

The New Saskatchewan

Canadian Theatre Review is committed to excellence in the critical analysis and innovative coverage of current developments in Canadian theatre, advocating new issues and artists, and publishing at least one significant new playscript per issue.

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Page 36 of 107

These improvisation-based Regina artists seem to take the use of improvisation to another level. improvisation at some point in their process. In the theatre world most devised theatre works created collectively employ some element of improvisation as a means to create the final product. In this instance, improvisation is employed as a means to facilitate the creation of a new theatrical production that becomes a substantive work of art, separate from the improvisation which was used as a tool for creation. It is clear that these improvisation-based Regina artists take the use of improvisation to another level. As a result of their acquisition of significant improvisational skills at the high school level, their work becomes more deeply rooted in improvisation as both a means to an end and an end in itself.The improvisation remains the central rehearsal tool but finds itself onstage informing and changing each new performance from night to night. Creating Human Beings A fear of failure often drives actors to seek perfection in their performances through diligent work and repetition in order to reduce the margin of error. For Pfeifer this is counterintuitive and contradicts the "licence to fail" he feels is key—not only to creating better performances, but to better developing young improvisers who may find unscripted play an essential part of their exploration of public performance, teamwork, and a newly-discovered confidence. "It's a deeper link than just a skill. The student gets to take ownership of their personality and this allows them to use things that are deep inside them and get it out" (Pfeifer). Ted Stewart reinforces this notion: "The improv activities [are] character building. Growth flowers unexpectedly by allowing students an opportunity to step outside of themselves to explore the student's love of fooling around. Through their creativity, they develop a confidence in themselves that is not always encouraged in a school environment." Regina-born-and-bred film and theatre artist Tatiana Maslany now works primarily in film inToronto but played high school improv for four years and won a national championship. She returns to Regina on an annual basis to improvise with General Fools. "Early in my career, I felt stifled by the way film and television sets operated. It felt as though it was all about the lines, saying it faster, word perfectly. The more I learned to integrate improvisation in my work, the more free I felt to explore the character off the page. Approaching scripted work with an improv mentality makes me feel as if I'm living the character's life and not just saying the lines I've memorized" (Maslany). Johanna Bundon takes this notion a step further: "Improvisation teaches the individual to be in the question." As a student at Montreal's L'École de dance contemporaine, ctr 154 spring 2013 she spent "long afternoons in creative 'labs'" with founders Linda Rabin and Candace Loubert. "Improvisation became the prompt or predicament—a way of physically researching movement, exploring a specific part of the anatomy and certain characters." For Bundon, the greatest assets of improvisation reside in acquiring a physical skill that allows improvisers to "explore the spatial and relational, placing equal emphasis on movement, action, breath, sound, text etc." In fact, many of the most successful CIG teams use a heightened physicality where the body becomes a form of text in itself. For many CIG teams the body is soundscape and landscape; the body— whether as a group or through individual virtuosity—contains the more significant narrative. When it comes to improvised movement, Misty Wensel adds, I think often dance exists in a box.You go to class, you learn to do steps, skills; you are technically trained. As a dancer, teacher, and choreographer I hope to inspire students to become artists themselves. Improv work lends itself to this. I want them to know how to choreograph, not merely be told how to dance. Honestly, I would be so frightened to teach and choreograph without utilizing the methods of improv as it would seem so limiting. Time and time again students provide me with a more interesting movement or sequence than I would have come up with, simply because I asked them to play. For Pfeifer, improvisation—especially as a training ground for young people—goes beyond a certain skill set that improvisers acquire over many years. It's a way of being, of seeing the world. "It's judgement-free. It builds the best human beings; teaching, listening, accepting, tolerance. It opens ears and eyes to things that are around them. It teaches people to see possibility in the mundane. It even creates a sense of social justice and respect for human beings." "Improv has taught me a great deal about humility," says Maslany. "It is all about saying yes, which can be a terrifying thing to do." Underlying all this discovery is the notion of "play," which is implicitly and intrinsically linked to the games, exercises, and ultimately the creative work these artists undertake. The need to "play," to discover before or outside the scripted text, is also valued as a socializing instrument and a fundamental tool in the development of minds young and old. For this reason, Stewart was interested in improvisation not merely for the skills it helped build in his actors but also for the openness and understanding it brought to individuals as human beings. "Students developed a better understanding of others. They became courageous in their risk-taking, and they engaged doi:10.3138/ctr.154.006 35

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