Friday, June 02, 2006

Improv in Canada


The development of Improv in Canada may be examined geographically. The vast distances between major cities have not allowed for regular exchange, competition and co-operation, as is found in Europe. To gather at a festival means serious air travel or days of driving. Days. A smart improv company uses these rare gatherings to learn from their peers, despite the strange accents and customs.

We may examine the scene economically. The common bond between improvisors across Canada is that a healthy income from improv is not guaranteed. Most shows are voluntary. Those who commit to the art are obviously in it for the joy of the performance. The few, the happy few, who have built a career in improv are by nature very skilled and artistically reliable; able to charm any audience against all odds.

Let us take a historic viewpoint: THEATRESPORTS was created by Keith Johnstone at the University of Calgary in the 1970's, then soon spread to Vancouver and Edmonton. Loose Moose Theatre, The Vancouver TheatreSports League and Rapid Fire Theatre and have since been dedicated to continuing productions of THEATRESPORTS. They are hothouses of new improv structures and focus on the education of young artists and development of the form. Over the course of 25 years, these three companies have acted as launching pads for a great portion of the talent in the Canadian comedy scene.
Meanwhile, THEATRESPORTS has become a global phenomenon. It has entertained millions, inspired many thousands of actors, spawned countless imitators, and secured Keith Johnstone a place in the history of 20th century theatre.

Improv Theatre can be viewed sociologically. Although the 'umbrella companies' offer a network of support and a history to draw from, independent creation allows artists and troupes to find their own voice and perform on their own terms. The abundance of smaller troupes gives a variety of improv to the scene and presents a challenge to those who wish to form another: Create Something New.

Meteorologically, we may propose that the harsh Canadian winters challenge the dedication of not only the artists, but also the audience. When the temperature drops, the level of appreciation for eachother in the theatre rises.

Finally, let us examine Canadian Improv realistically. When the show starts, everybody wants to have a good timeā€¦ 'cause, jeez, it's cold out there, eh?

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