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 Amorphous Horse – Alexia Pavli
Hello There! Tell us who you are and three random facts about yourself!
My name is Alexia Pavli. I’m an actor, comedian and writer, born in Sydney, Australia, living in London.
* I love to hula hoop and rap simultaneously to NWA’s “Express Yourself.” I hope to one day popularise this riveting combo.
* I once missed my flight to LA but got a free ticket when I burst into tears.
* I don’t drink coffee but I like coffee flavoured things.
How did you get into improv?
In 2016 I did a one week intensive beginners course with ‘Second City’, that was being run by ‘Angel Comedy Club’. I had a great and enthusiastic teacher, Erica Elam. I fell in love with improv and went on to train with ‘Monkey Toast U.K’.
What inspired you to start improv?
I grew up watching the US version of ‘Whose Line is It Anyway’, after school at my grandmother’s house.
What troupes are you are a part of?
My improv team is ‘Amorphous Horse’. We’re a large team of twelve that mainly met doing ‘Monkey Toast’ courses. We’ve been rehearsing twice a week for over two years and have a monthly comedy night at the ‘Castle Pub’ in Aldgate East on the last Thursday of every month. This September was the one year anniversary of our show.
I also perform regularly at ‘Do the Right Scene’s’ monthly comedy night as part of a team called ‘Special Delivery’, that celebrates BAME performers.
I occasionally perform at an all female improv comedy night called ‘The Playground’ as part of the warm up team ‘The Swingers.’
Tell us about the styles of improv you enjoy and why?
I enjoy watching and performing both short and long form improv comedy. I particularly enjoy watching fast paced, game focused improv, where the audience and the performers are constantly kept on their toes. Some of my favourite long form structures are the Armando, the Harold and the Commando.
Who are some Improvisers that you find inspiring and why?
All the women in my improv group constantly inspire me. They are all innately funny and intelligent.
My teachers from ‘Second City’ really influenced the improviser I am today. Particularly, Erica Elam, because of her infectious enthusiasm. And Amanda Blake Davis, who has the unique ability to create interesting characters.
Maria Peters and Lauren Shearing also inspire me. They run an amazing all female improv night. And their improv sets are joyful and witty.
And last but certainly not least, Monica Gaga, Athena Kugblenu, Mary C. Parker, Verona Rose and Kemah Bob from ‘Do the Right Scene’. They are all incredibly talented and funny improvisers.
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 it’s harder to be a woman in any industry. That’s why I think it’s great for women to do improv because it’s empowering and encourages you to not second guess yourself and use your voice. We not only need more women in improv, but we need to make sure that onstage women feel that their voices are as powerful and heard as their male counterparts.
What are some of the best bits of advice you have been given about improv and why?
When I did my first improv course, my teacher gave us advice that I still use today. The first is that “every mistake is a gift”. This really helps me enjoy the unpredictable moments on stage. The second is that when you are on the sidelines be in a “volleyball ready position” and ask “who needs me?” Essentially be there for your teammates and look out for what the scene needs. Be there to service the scene.
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 haven’t encountered any stereotypical suggestions. Usually the suggestions I get given most often are about being a mother, or cooking, or cleaning. Hang on, wait a minute…
What have been some of your favourite moments on stage?
I once did an improv show at the ‘Bill Murray’ to an audience of five. This sounds like it would be a bad performance experience, but actually it was one of the best sets my team had done. I felt we were really on the ball and focused on making it a great show. Plus they even paid! Out of pity? Who cares!
What have been some of the worst and why?
I once fell onstage. It wasn’t even a funny fall. They were no banana peels involved. It was just painful and embarrassing. But then I read online that same week that country singer Blake Shelton had fallen onstage so I felt that I was in good company.
I was once in a seemingly endless scene with a teammate of mine (he knows who he is), playing surgeons. We felt like we were drowning. Not just because neither of us have a medical degree. No matter how hard we tried to salvage the scene, it kept getting worse. No one swept the scene, and people kept coming onstage to try and help us, but we were beyond help!
For new improvisers, what would your key bit of advice be?
Never underestimate the power of a good call back. And if you fall onstage, don’t feel bad, think of Blake Shelton.
What are three things you want to focus on this season with your own improv?
* Experimenting with new characters
* Taking more risks
* And staying upright
What is the future of improv?
I hope the future of improv means more diversity onstage. And to me, that means more opportunities for BAME and LGBTQIA performers.