This year has been a really busy one for Hoopla Impro with lots of fantastic shows, lessons and new ventures left right and centre. One of the Founders of Hoopla is Steve Roe, the Hoopla Marathon is one of the companies biggest events of the year and now that all the hectic planning and event has died down we finally found time to catch up and talk about all things improv. So in this special interview with Steve, we discuss all things Marathon plus a few other things as well. Enjoy!
Hello Steve tell us a little bit about yourself and your improv experience?
Hello Holly I’m Steve and I’m the Director of Hoopla. It’s been running about 12 or so years and I don’t actually remember a time before Hoopla anymore. Improv experience I started with The Maydays in Brighton and then when moving to London did more with Crunchy Frog Collective (Alan Marriott and Dylan Emery), Sprout Ideas and Keith Johnstone. Then over the years did more with Mick Barnfather (Clown), Jonathan Kay (Fooling), UCB and IO. I’ve performed with The Maydays and Music Box and Story Kitchen and currently direct various new shows at Hoopla.
Tell us about your company Hoopla?
One other fun fact the word Hoopla comes from circus performers shouting Hoopla after pulling off a trick they weren’t entirely sure of pulling off.
You are one of the founders of the Hoopla Improv Marathon – tell us how it came about?
I was reading about Dance Marathons during the Great Depression in America. I don’t know where I heard of them but they were massive things that went on for days and were incredibly popular with big prices and people would dance until they fell unconscious. Just when the world was in a bad place people were getting together and doing something bonkers.
It was also inspired by The London Improvathon and The Del Close Marathon. We wanted to bring together lots of improvisers and UK groups in one place as a celebration of what’s great about improv.
I was meeting with the staff and owner of The Miller (the venue we partner with for shows) and they were saying we needed to do something big to let people know about the great shows we were putting on. I ended up saying we should do a show non-stop for 7 days with no sleep and break a world record. For ages the aim was to do that, eventually it downgraded to 2 nights (last year) and then 1 night (this year). The owner was like “will 3 days and 2 nights be enough?” It is enough.
When did the Marathon begin and how have you seen it grow over time?
It only began last year but we’ve already decided it is an annual tradition so it will be back in 2019. This year (2018) it was actually shorter but we had more groups and I felt the groups really got what it was all about and brought some amazing new shows. It felt like all hit shows this year and it was busy at really obscure times which I loved.
What are some your favourite things about the Marathon and Why?
I enjoy waking up on the floor of the pub and then going upstairs to find Leanna still dancing in a headdress and then Katherine and Unai hosting a breakfast show at 9am on a Saturday morning. I also like seeing lots of great people all at once. I get to go out on stage and say “nobody else is doing this right now” and mean it. Things happen that only happen then and nobody sees them again.
What are some of the most challenging things about organising a Marathon?
Angela Pollard organised this one so you’ll have to ask her! I organised the one the year before and I think no matter what you do you eventually have to lock yourself in a room and read nothing but application emails for 24 hours straight and decide where to put people. I think the toughest thing is you can’t please everyone. For every group you say “hey come and headline Saturday night” there is a group you have to say you haven’t got space for, because you don’t have space for everyone. I want to please everyone but can’t do that so that’s difficult.
Tell us about some of the acts that you had playing this year?
I think the whole thing still feels like a dream I’ve only just woken up from. There was so much great stuff. I always love Dark Matters the improvised shadow puppet show, that works so well at the marathon it’s just out of this world and transports me to somewhere else and when I end the show by turning the lights on instead of off I feel like I’m on a trip. Anything Mike Hutcherson and Liam Brennan put together was awesome, they each emailled about 20 ideas each any one of which would have been an entire Edinburgh show. I enjoyed being in the Living Room as it was fun to play with people I usually don’t get to play with. And RH Experience were so hilarious my stomach hurt. It was all good to be honest I loved it all.
What have been your highlights from past Marathons?
HOT MORRIS! This was an improvised Morris dancing routine and was hilarious. What I love about the Marathon weekend is people come up with ideas they didn’t think would work or be possible and the Marathon focusses us all to work together to make them happen. I think having the weekend each year accelerates new show development and keeps things fresh. We all get inspired by each other and learn from each other and I think shows for the rest of the year are better because of it. For instance this year there were coincidentally three computer gamed themed shows and they were all very different and great in their own ways. I really enjoyed being in Side Scroller the improvised Mario style platform computer game, playing the role of DOUGHTNUT HUNTER!
Also last year I really enjoyed Kevin Miller’s Drunk History in collaboration with Duck Duck Goose. I didn’t know him, and when he emailled it sounded like it wouldn’t work (he gets drunk and narrates a story based on real history) but then on the day the venue was packed and it was awesome. That’s also what the Marathon is all about – shaking things up and putting on shows we don’t usually have space for.
Angela (Hoopla’s show producer) now aim to have every night at Hoopla have some of the Marathon vibe. We have the main headline acts but also book mini-bits around them or put on DJs after the shows and other fun things, and always keep parts of a schedule free to put on wilder ideas that may or may not work but keep things fresh.
I think a theatre needs to have constant ongoing development. We always say to each other “we’re never finished”.
What are your plans for the marathon going into 2019?
The current plan is…..it’s happening! Probably in September again. One major change will be more late night shows as we were surprised how many people were still there at 5am and ready for improv! Also there were a tonne of ideas we didn’t have space for this year that I’d love to put on next year.
QUICK FIRE ROUND
If you could be any animal what would it be and why?
Dolphin! I love swimming and they hang out in amazing places and go surfing.
Who is your favorite super hero and why?
Batman because the Dark Knight films are so good.
If a movie was made of your life what genre would it be, who would play you?
Ummmm, sci fi! I’m actually a robot I just haven’t revealed it yet. James Witt or Andrew Gentilli would play me.
If you could go any where in the world where would you go and why?
I’m happy where I am! But I’d like to go to Arizona or New Mexico again I love those places I just like the wide open spaces and clear air and dry heat. I’d like to sit in the middle of a desert for a week.
What would you do with your “15 minutes” of fame?
Say “hey everyone if you’re interested in improv go to www.hooplaimpro.com” . Oh gosh I probably should have said something like world peace.
What is one item you could NEVER live without?
Pants! I love my Marks and Spencers boxer shorts and my day is a happy day when I have my favourites.
Last time you laughed very hard out loud?
The RH Experience! They did a scene at the marathon with Conor climbing up and down a spiral staircase to either get the door at the top or answer the phone at the bottom. They are so funny it hurts.
What is your favourite movie quote?
“No matter what you do, it will never amount to anything more than a single drop in a limitless ocean.
Yet what is an ocean, but a multitude of drops?”