It’s Friday June 27 2014 and the 7pm show has just ended at the Seattle International Improv Festival.
I’ve never had the opportunity to perform in an International Improv Festival before* and this is my first experience watching the one in Seattle. The show had an eclectic mix of talent from all around North America and Europe.
The audience has cleared the theatre and I’m sitting near the front of the stage about to interview the Artistic Director of Unexpected Productions, Randy Dixon.
I’m feeling a little overwhelmed with the situation I’ve put myself in. Randy doesn’t know me and this is my first real interview for improvtheatre.com.
Before we start chatting I notice that the first 4-5 rows of chairs from the stage are more modern and comfortable than the rest (they even have drink holders!). I can only assume that the placement of the newer chairs is strategic. I want to mention this to Randy but I’m worried about making a good first impression. My nerves are taking over and I’m in my head… not a great start to an interview about improv.
Instead, I start the interview asking him about the Seattle Improv Festival and why he chose play as this year’s theme. He explained that all play has rules. With the help of famed game designer, Bernie De Koven, the international ensemble had been work-shopping the theme all week. The performers would seek to understand the rules of each game (improv or not) and learn to play within them to their fullest potential. They don’t look at these rules as restrictions but rather containers to celebrate. The next step was taking this exploration to the stage and finding new ways to engage their audiences through play.
Our conversation evolves to the concept of improvisers being inspired by the outside world. Each year, Randy invites an instructor that does not have an improv background. The goal is to discover something about improv without focusing on improv itself.
It’s a short talk and Randy leaves me sitting alone in the theatre feeling inspired. I’m hoping this is not my last meeting with Mr Dixon.
Themes from previous Seattle Improv Festivals:
1999 – Old Friends
2000 – Get Out of your Skin
2001 – Body and Soul
2002 – Taking It Personally: Personal Stories, Collective Voices
2003 – Stereotypes and Clichés
2004 – Words, Sounds, Silence
2005 – Blurred Lines
2006 – Holding Up the Mirror
2007 – Jazz
2008 – Invisibility
2009 – Zen
2010 – Trinity: The Rule of Three
2011 – The Fool
2012 – Wabi Sabi
2013 – Between You and Me: The Audience and Performer
2014 – Serious Play
* I’ve got lots of experience applying for Festivals. I still torture myself from an experience with another International Improv Festival. I had followed the instructions on the application and went to the address to drop off the document. The door opens and a waft of marijuana smell engulfs me. Guy (mid conversation with someone else in the house): “Yeah?”. Me: “My application” (including non-refundable fee) Guy (off putting look): “Oh”. Guy takes application and closes door. Me: “Well, that’s promising…”