Like all good improvisers, the folks at Paper Street Theatre aren’t afraid of switching things up.
Take this year’s fourth edition of the Victoria company’s annual Improv Festival, happening April 9-13 at the Intrepid Theatre Club.
“Every year it’s been completely different – not only the shows, because they’re all improv – but the makeup of the festival,” says Dave Morris, Paper Street artistic director.
Committed to keeping things fresh while maintaining the all-important learning and performance aspects of the festival, Morris says, “it’s a lot more about creating this time and innovating and pushing the art form forward, as opposed to strictly showing different examples of improv to people.”
To accomplish that, the festival is taking a new approach: bringing together artistic directors from four improv companies, including Owen Chan from Calgary, Red Deer’s Jenna Goldade, Domeka Parker from Portland and Morris. One per day will work with a hand-picked ensemble of 12 improvisers, who will perform the material they learn that day in each of the four evening shows (April 10-13, 8 p.m.).
Meanwhile, the four A.D.s – known for the festival as The Four Corners Collective – will work together daily creating material to be performed in the second half of the evening shows.
“It’s really almost like two ensembles,” Morris says.
The festival kicks off April 9 with Local Night, showcasing UVic’s Vikes Improv, First Time Last and Esquimalt High’s improv team. Morris and Missie Peters, another key member of Paper Street, will also perform as the improv poetry duo SpeakEasy, which they’ve toured at festivals around Europe.
“It’s almost like a little science experiment,” Morris says of the opening night. “It’s a way to say ‘hey, welcome to Victoria … It’s also part of growing the art form and growing the audience for it. Part of the craft is about seeing how audiences react, so we have to perform.”
The weekend also offers opportunities for improvisers at any level to learn from the experts, during three three-hour workshops. Chan offers his take on Playing Resistance, the Push and Pull (April 13, 2-5 p.m.), Parker discusses the challenges of Intimacy in Improvisation (April 14, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.) and Goldade discusses using The Building Blocks of Character (April 14, 2-5 p.m.). Cost is $50 and registration is by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Morris hopes some newcomers will check out the festival to see what’s happening on a local level.
“Our mandate is to create improv that feels like theatre,” he says. “We’re aiming for a more theatrical experience as opposed to comedy all the time. One thing that is beautiful about improv, it’s constantly rediscovering itself and in fact, the whole art form is about discovery.”
Tickets are on sale now but are limited for the shows, as capacity at Intrepid Theatre is about 50 people. You can purchase tickets online and find more information at paperstreettheatre.ca/festival.html.