You have formed a new improv troupe or you are part of a group that want to change their format – well congratulations! Delving into the new and wonderful world of the unknown is really fun and can be very exciting! You have rehearsal after rehearsal trying to get the idea worked out and trying to see what you can make out of the idea that you have had. Part of you wants to show it to the world but a big percentage of you doesn’t want to show it to the world just yet because it isn’t finished – it isn’t perfect. You know what, you should try out what you have and test your incomplete idea!
It may seem like a weird idea at first to test something that you are not quite sure on but the great thing about improv is a lot of it is made up on the spot and whether or not your idea is perfect, testing out what you have can actually help you to develop the initial idea better.
I remember when we first started Punders we had a great idea but we were over complicating it for ourselves – we wanted tech, we wanted stuff on the wall, we wanted craft related stuff – it all sounded fantastic but in theory was a lot of work and expense if it didn’t work. So we kept trying to pull back the ideas and introduced some tech to see if we can use it in shows and how well it worked.
The best way of doing this was booking ourselves into a slot at a Launchpad, which is now been replaced with a Pre Party at Hoopla. We were nervous, I was worried because I was having to rely on someone not in our group doing the tech for our show and 30 minutes before we were even going on stage one member had to go to A+E so it meant that everything we had pre recorded had to be redone very quickly.
Lesson 1 of that night – One thing I learnt straight off the bat is that pre recorded material is hell when something happens last minute. Due to what we recorded I was able to make a very rough alternative to adjust what had been said but in the early shows we were so structured to what the audio was saying that altering last minute was an absolute pain.
Lesson 2 – When you have a new idea the best thing about testing it out is making sure that your tech works and the one thing I learnt was most importantly was try and do your own tech. The person on the tech deck messed up the start so we already were off to a messy beginning. From that one show I have spent the last year and a half working out ways to bring our own tech requests in house at a show. Sometimes this isn’t possible and when this is the case I make sure that I now give the tech person a detailed script. However, testing unfinished work means that I learnt this very early on.
Lesson 3 – I don’t think this happened in our first show as I think our games, from what I remember went pretty well (or we were caught up n the energy of it being our first show!) The thing you learn from these test shows is that some games work better in rehearsal. We have played games in shows and realised that actually they work a lot better in a rehearsal environment but we would not of known that had it not been for testing them out at small sets.
Lesson 4 – The last lesson I think is one of the most important – whilst it is good to use these sessions to see what needs work on, it is also just as important to use it to praise the good. Make sure that you do not just focus on the negative as it is the worse sort of energy, you should always focus on your positives as well.