13 Feb Tarantino: an improv metaphor
So if you are an improviser and based in Europe, you have probably already heard of the big daddy, the originator, the beast that is Impro Amsterdam. An amazing twenty five years old this year, it is probably the most ambitious of all of the European festivals and I could happily talk about how well organised it is, how interesting the shows are and what a lovely time I had cycling around and making stuff up one of my favourite cities.
But that’s not not what I am here to talk about. Nine days of classes and shows is too much for one blog. I am here to talk about one very specific thing. Blood.
On Wednesday night, in a black-and-white-and-death-themed evening, the Maydays played on the same bill as the simply-titled Tarantino. It’s an improvised Tarantino, and they fit pretty well. We both killed parents and children. We both considered the nature of happiness and belonging. They had ducks, we had dragons. It was, biased though I am, a Good Night of Improv.
But that’s not what I am here to talk about. A whole evening of tight plotting, rising tension and belly laughs is too much for one blog. I am here to talk about something else. Blood.
Now you can’t have an improvised Tarantino without blood. Of course you can’t. You make us love the characters and then cruelly, hilariously, you kill them off (Marvin!). And given the black and white costumes, some red onstage is just as fun visually as it is narratively. This is how they did it: The players have pockets full of red glitter and when they get shot, they throw handfuls on themselves or each other, out of their mouths, all over the motherfucking stage in a delicious, shocking burst of colour. It’s one of those things that’s fun to watch because you know it’s fun to do.
It’s a great visual, and I was giggling like a kid, but it also stayed with me after. Now I have seen a lot of people die and get killed onstage, but there was something about this. As an offer, it mattered. Because here’s the thing: if the glitter is in your pocket, it means you can never shoot someone, you can only ever get shot. You can point a gun, raise your voice and the tension, say you’re really gonna do it, but no one dies unless they want to. That, my friends, is how to design an improv show.
Because we have all been in scenes and shows where people get bumped off left, right and centre, where improvisers get shot over the ideas, not characters over the stakes. Where deaths came as a dull surprise or just a workaday way to clear players off the stage. Not these deaths. With a pocket full of glitter, you go when you want.
And then there’s the metaphorical resonance. Glitter in the pocket is a symbol of an empowered player, someone who doesn’t have to do anything that they don’t want to, an improviser whose hand cannot be forced. With a pocketful of imaginary glitter, you do what you want.
And that’s one of the things that I took from the festival. There were many others, but this is what I am talking about today. Blood. This improv year, keep a handful of glitter in your pocket as a reminder that, whatever the other players are doing, what show you want to play is up to you.
(Photo Credit: Cindy Goey)