The deadline for Improvathon 2015 team sign-ups is Friday, May 8. That’s TOMORROW people! And, I’ve got it on pretty good authority that if you don’t sign up tomorrow, the sun will not come out and you will be stuck in a day that’s gray and lonely. You should probably head on over to the Improvathon website right now. It’s ok…we will wait…
OK! Now, that you’re all amped up about Improvathon & are counting the days until CYT EXPO, let’s play a little blog-improv* with Improvathon 2015 Director, Bobby Marchessault, and one of the Improvathon 2015 judges, Chris Gott.
*NOTE: It is a stone cold fact that questions kill improv. Thus, no questions were asked during the course of this interview. Also, it’s long because we forgot to set the timer. No apologies, just commit! Off you go…
CYT: Neither of you are first timers at CYT Improvathon.
BM: Nope. I’ve had the privilege of experienced both sides of the table. Having been a coach a while back, and now having the opportunity to direct it 2 years in a row.
CG: Last year was my first year actually attending Improvathon, though I did see some of the finals in Santa Cruz a couple years ago. Our primary goal has been to make Improvathon a more enjoyable experience for everyone that attends, while also promoting our CYT values. Personally, I’m excited about pairing up teams and giving them the space to play together, learn from each other and build relationships across the country. While competition drives us to do better, building community can help us to make each other better.
CYT: Yes, and the 2015 EXPO theme is a spin on The Wizard of Oz. That has inspired some really rad team names.
BM: Word. Not sure if I’m supposed to have favorites already, but based solely on names, Kansas is awesome. (And those are words I never thought I’d say…no offense Kansas.) Fitting I guess. But now I have high expectations for their puns, if I’m able to listen at all while slaying Guitar Hero in my head to the sounds of Kansas.
CG: Yes, the Kansas team name “Kansas: Carry on My Wayward Puns” is epic. Any team name you can sing earns bonus points. Every year teams show off their s-pun-tacular skills. This year, my favorite is the “L. Frank Bombs” from Sacramento, but my wife is partial to Kansas City’s “The Flying Pun-keys.”
CYT: Yes, and I’m sort of obsessed with “The Rainbroz!”. They have a z and an exclamation point in their name. (New choice!) Registration for Improvathon can be done at a website.
BM: Yup. I believe the deadline is tomorrow (It is!). So get a team together quick! And make sure if you’re coming you really pay attention to the playbook rules. If you have any questions, use the email on the website!!
CG: I’ve heard from a few people who didn’t know that they can go to improv.cyt.org to get loads of information on all things Improvathon 2015. Beyond the basic date information is the rules for this year’s Improvathon (which are fine tuned from last year’s rule set), there is also detailed rules for each of the games in the Playbook. I think the best/worst thing about the Playbook are all of the videos. I DEFINITELY haven’t gotten lost in the Who’s Line/Improv-a-ganza YouTube universe. Nope. Not me.
CYT: (Don’t deny in improv, Chris.) You both do other things for CYT, yet, you choose to also lend your genius to Improvathon.
BM: Uh oh. No one told me I was expected to bring some genius with me. This could be a problem. Hopefully our other judges can bring on the genius. In the past I have had the privilege of directing some CYT shows, vocal directing, and even a stint as managing director for a season. Nowadays I teach a class on occasion and recently had my first experience as a parent volunteer, but for the most part I need all the genius I can muster for Improvathon.
CG: Officially, I’m the Communications Assistant for CYT Inc., which is a delightfully squishy job that includes tech support for all of our affiliates, hosting a weekly Q&A Office Hours meeting Tuesdays at 10AM Pacific/1PM Eastern time, being the first point of contact for people interested in starting new affiliates, and generally writing a lot of emails. Helping with Improvathon lets my creative side get a little bit of exercise, too
CYT: Yes, and neither of you are from CYT San Diego, yet, that is where EXPO is being held this year. It is quite sunny there and also the birthplace of CYT.
BM: Well, if we’re being technical (Of course we are.), I kinda am from CYT San Diego. But my last gig with them was in 1993. All of a sudden I feel old. I digress, whenever someone asks where I’m from, I say San Diego and since no one knows where that is, I let them know it’s sunny and the birthplace of CYT. It makes me an instant rock star when I drop Paul Russell’s name.
CG: My original affiliate is CYT Santa Cruz, where it is often sunny and beautiful as well. However, several years ago I moved to Northwest Ohio. There is almost nothing that Ohio has in common with San Diego. There is no ocean, no mountains, no ocean breeze, no CYT and no ocean. It will be great to get away from the humidity and experience the awesomesockness (that’s a real word – trust me, I’m a Communications professional) that will be on display at EXPO and Improvathon.
CYT: Yes, awesomesockness is a real thing. I accept that. (New choice!) You’ve got some veteran Improvathon teams and some newbies this year. Sometimes nervousness and confidence both show up at Improvathon.
BM: If only they all realized that everyone else is both nervous and confident at the same time. Chances are whether you’re a veteran team or a newbie, you feel the nervousness no matter how confident you are. It’s kinda the nature of Improv, right? (No questions! It is the nature of improv) Who knows what could happen to trip you up. When it comes to the experienced teams, I love watching how supportive everyone is of each other. I know when I brought a team for the first time ever, the more seasoned coaches were super supportive and encouraging. This year we are taking the opportunity to pair up experienced teams with a newer team so they can learn from each other and root each other on. I’m looking forward to seeing how that works to hopefully build some relationships and gives everyone another affiliate in their corner.
CG: One of the great things about Improvathon, I think, is the variety of experience that the teams bring. We are doing some things to try to break down the walls between teams as we move forward, but teams should bring their best – regardless of where that is in the development cycle. Beginning teams should know that the judges are there to help them develop their skills, not to tell them what they are “doing wrong.” Experienced teams should remember that good improv is fun (even when you aren’t doing comedy), and that they can ALWAYS develop their skills. All of the teams can benefit from each other’s experience and perspective. I’m hoping that teams work together and help each other develop, either by watching (and cheering for) each other’s showcases and performances, or in the breakout workshops.
CYT: Yes, and in many cases Improv games are weird & make no sense except as Improv games.
CG: That’s true. I’m pretty sure that I’ve seen some guys walking the street doing some version of our improv games, but they just needed their medication. Remember, one person doing improv games while mumbling to themselves and arguing with their fictional teammates isn’t funny, but a group of people doing them on stage (or in the city) is hysterical.
BM: Whatchu talkin bout Willis? (No questions!) I thought everyone played improv games everywhere. Hmm. Maybe that explains the looks I get at social events when I pull a piece of paper out of my pocket and read a random line as part of our conversation.
CYT: Yes, that is why. (New choice!) Some say Jesus is/was great at improvising. Example: “Dang, I had that cup of blood here a second ago…no worries, Decipes (rhymes with wipes). Bam! I’ve turned this wine into my blood.” Example #2: “Only 2 fish & 5 loaves ya say? And…feast!”
CG: Jesus was an excellent storyteller and improviser. He was fully present in every moment and knew how to guide those around Him to become better. Nothing threw Him off His game. Crazy demon child? No problem, I’ll use those sheep. Short guy in a tree? Sounds like a great guy to have dinner with. Decipes freaked out, hiding in some upstairs room? Drop in their midst and casually ask for a bite.
BM: Hmmmm. While your premise regarding his improv skills may be correct, we have some deep theological implications if we consider whether Jesus turned the wine to actual blood or if it was metaphor and how that effects our current doctrines of transubstantiation, consubstantiation, sacramental union, or ordinance. I’m sorry, am I missing the point? (No questions! But, yes, you just killed the scene when you denied another player’s information. You’ve lost 10 points, but carry on my wayward son…see what I did there?) In an effort to remain ecumenical, let’s return to your hypothesis that Jesus was great at improvising. Now we should look instead at the nature of Jesus. Was he omniscient or did he lay aside that part of his Godhood in the fullness of his humanity? Because one must ask, if he always knew what was going to happen next, could it really be considered improv or was it more like a scripted musical? Hmmm…a musical about Jesus. That’s an idea. I’ll bet Andrew Lloyd Webber could make that work. Am I off topic?
CYT: Jeeeeee-sus Christ! Suuuuuu-perstar! Do you think you’re what they say you are? …(pause mid-dance-break)…(exchange blank stares)…(pull themselves together)… Eh-hem, yeah, I think this got away from us a little bit… But there are no mistakes in Improv, only opportunities! Here we go! Wrap it up! Finish strong!
CG: Improvathon is going to be outstanding this year. It is shaping up to be our largest one ever, with over 20 teams from 12 affiliates in a whole range of skill levels. Bobby and I are working to continue to build a positive atmosphere for everyone, whether they are expecting to compete for the championship or to help develop their team’s skills.
BM: I like the final commandment of the ten commandments of improv: “When thy faith is low, thy spirit weak, thy good fortune strained, and thy team losing, be comforted and smile, because it just doesn`t matter.” In the end, Improvathon is an annual opportunity to come together to laugh a lot, learn from each other, and celebrate all that is improv and comedy. As you prepare to come, take it seriously in making every effort to be the best you can be, and don’t take it so seriously that you forget that it’s all about laughing and having a great time together. I can’t wait to see everyone in San Diego next month. Holy moly. Next month y’all!!
Annnnnd….scene! Nice finish! You both advance to the finals of blog-improv! Thanks, guys!
Wanna play some more? Join the conversation around this year’s Improvathon & check out their Facebook group