This month I chatted to over 30 female improvisers from all over the UK to celebrate the talent that we have – we also discuss some of the important debates surrounding this topic as well. Today I talk to an improviser that is part of BananaFarm and 33 Johnson Lane – Emma Price
Hello There Emma! Tell us who you are and three random facts about yourself!
1. I LOVE vinegar
2. I am a freelance classical musician
3. I have a titanium plate in my arm
How did you get into improv?
By watching improv at the Edinburgh Fringe (of course!!!)
What inspired you to start improv?
I was feeling very unenthusiastic about performing (as a musician), and was finding the classical music world to be pretty negative, competitive, and unsupportive, which was affecting my love of music and performing, as well as my mental health. Improv showed me that you CAN love performing and being part of a supportive group of other performers, who are out to look after each other, not themselves!
What troupes are you are a part of?
BananaFarm – a long form group. We met on a Hoopla Performance Course, and all clicked. We love performing together, and have such fun coming up with new ideas and show formats… our current favourite is an improvised narrative called “Uncle Pig’s Memoirs”.
33 Johnson Lane – Hoopla Long Form House Team. We all have a blast, and it’s been wonderful to get to know so many new and inspiring improvisers.
Tell us about the styles of improv you enjoy and why?
I LOVE musical improv. As a musician, I’m so impressed and inspired by it. My favourites are Dreamweaver Quartet and The Maydays.
I also love seeing improvisers who completely commit to whatever character, scene, or situation they’re put into. It’s such a joy to see someone wholeheartedly embodying a Welsh squirrel in Ibiza, for example.
Who are some Improvisers that you find inspiring and why?
As mentioned previously, Dreamweaver Quartet and The Maydays. I am constantly blown away by their slick performances, total commitment to their characters, emotions, scene partners, and the story or show as a whole. It’s first class improv, and an inspiration to watch.
I have read many articles around the debate that it is harder to be a woman in improv – what are your thoughts on this and why?
I think being a woman in improv can be as hard as being a woman in any other artform, or any other sector for that matter. But improv has a unique advantage where nothing is (or should be!) pre-planned; so there is absolutely no reason why any of the blank human canvasses on that stage shouldn’t be contributing and receiving to that show within that very moment with absolute equality. As long as women aren’t endowed to be stereotypical roles, and are given the same freedoms as men (i.e. to be a Welsh [male] squirrel in Ibiza), then we all walk onto that stage as a bunch of improvisers, not a bunch of genders.
What are some of the best bits of advice you have been given about improv and why?
Play to the height of your intelligence, and remember to have fun. As one develops in improv, it can be easy to get a bit heady about where you’re at, how you’re doing etc., but Katy Schutte gave the great piece of advice in a class, to remember that there are so many things you are now doing unconsciously that you take for granted, and that’s amazing! I think it’s important to give yourself a reality check and remember what an amazing artform improv is and to be a part of it is so rad!
Do you find that being a female in an improv show that the suggestions you can get are traditional and stereotypical? How do you feel when you get given these?
I honestly don’t get that very much. I’m lucky that I improvise with people who enjoy challenging me with different genders and objects with their endowments, so it’s very rare to be given the role of being a big-titted stripper. However, if I were endowed with this, I would aim to give her an edge that was least-expected, and challenge the stereotype head-on within the scene.
What have been some of your favourite moments on stage?
End of course show, a whole improvised musical!, after doing the Music Box course – it was one of the most challenging improv moments for me, and it was a highly rewarding experience. I also love playing strong characters with big personalities and a good strong accent! I’ve played a few Spanish heart-throbs, and I’ve loved every minute!
What have been some of the worst and why?
If I’ve been too tired, I have had shows where I have felt disconnected, which only makes you go into your head more, so you lose focus and confidence. This is never a good place to be mentally, when you need to be right there in the moment!
For new improvisers, what would your key bit of advice be?
Go for it! Embrace the fear! I have always suffered from demons in my head telling me not to do something, so I’m telling you guys to tell your demons to “do one!”. If you’re feeling scared, do it anyway! Jump off the precipice and see what happens. Chances are, you’ll come off stage and wish you could get right back on!
What are three things you want to focus on this season with your own improv?
More truthful improv, more connection to who I really am onstage – this is a big challenge for me.
What is the future of improv?
With companies like Hoopla expanding more and more each year, and with more and more performance opportunities coming up in and around London, I foresee improv just getting stronger and stronger with more amazing people coming along and adding to the pot of delicious improv soup that’s already bubbling on the stove.