Alex and I have created a new show: Sex, Lies & Improvisation, an improvised comedy about lying together. We’re touring it across the North this autumn but we can’t do that without a network of awesome improvisers who run great events in their improv communities. I want to celebrate those people with this blog series.
Ladies and gentlemen, these are…The Improv Community Heroes!
Hero Fact File:
Name: Jon Trevor
Location of Hero-ing: Birmingham
Teaches: Drop-in classes and weekend workshops
Community events: Monthly jam at the Blue Orange Theatre. Sandbox, an opportunity for those with ideas to create a show and have a showcase to an invited audience. And Birmingham Improv Festival, which last year ran for nine days with 22 shows and workshops!
Troupes past and present: Box Of Frogs, The Kneejerks, Off Broad Street
Rachel: Tell us about the jam you run at the Blue Orange Theatre. We can’t wait to bring Sex, Lies & Improvisation on October 21st!
Jon: The first half is an invited long-form group, either local or from further afield. The second half is a short-form jam, where members of the audience put their name in a hat, come up on stage, and are supported by members of Box Of Frogs.
Rachel: How did Box Of Frogs start?
Jon: I was a professional theatre director for 20 years. I gave up after experiencing burn-out, but some years later felt the urge to dabble again. I looked around Birmingham for an improv group, and when I couldn’t find one I started Box Of Frogs.
Rachel: What do you love about improvisation?
Jon: The fact that it is based in play, which always releases joy and laughter. The fact that it can be a window into the human soul (I don’t believe in souls, but I don’t know another word to talk about the unique inner life of each person). The fact that it is both memorable and completely ephemeral and disposable. The fact that it thrives on positivity and mutual support. The fact that improvisers are mostly such nice people. The fact that it is a way of making art for those of us who can’t draw, sculpt, play an instrument. The fact that we do the impossible every time we go on stage. The fact that it is a form of mindfulness for restless people like me, who can’t sit still staring at a candle for 20 minutes.
Rachel: What drives you to do good things for the improv community?
Jon: To spread the love, spread the joy – I’m something of an Improv Evangelist. So that there’s more and more to choose from – workshops, shows, jams, everything. So I can see the best shows and learn from the best teachers. So I can have more fun too!
Rachel: What does an improv community need to thrive?
Jon: Passionate people with an entrepreneurial spirit. Mutual support and positivity. Tenacity, especially during the inevitable slumps. A variety of skills, including teaching, performing, organising, marketing, financial, social media, etc.
Rachel: How can we engage more people in improv?
Jon: Keep doing the best work. Learn from other great teachers, so that you can be the best performer and the most inspiring teacher you can be. Never stop getting input from others, so that you keep growing, and that way we will engage and inspire others.
Rachel: What’s challenging about being an improv community hero?
Jon: It never stops. There’s always another show to produce, workshop to promote, drop-in to run, festival to organise, rehearsal room to find, image to post, venue to secure, enquiry to field, and inevitably for little – or much more usually no – financial reward.
Rachel: What have you learned about people and life in general from being an improv community hero?
Jon: There’s never a right time to start, so start now. Build it, and they will come. Humans all love to play, once they get past the fear. Joy is infectious – so go spread an epidemic!