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 improviser who also is an actress – Fiona Sagar
Hello There! Tell us who you are and three random facts about yourself!
Fiona Sagar actor and character comic. I’m the best messy chef you’ve never heard of, I speak (some) Spanish, I strongly believe the potato is the most important carbohydrate.
How did you get into improv?
Watching a Monkey Toast show Hosted by David Shore whilst at Edinburgh Festival in 2012.
What inspired you to start improv?
That show. It was hilarious and so clever and I thought I want to do that!
What troupes are you are a part of?
None presently but I always have improv elements in my character shows.
Tell us about the styles of improv you enjoy and why?
As an actor I love character improv. I find it really freeing to play outside of my typical comfort zone.
Who are some Improvisers that you find inspiring and why?
Stephanie Courtney is fearless. Cook County Social Club’s characters are always so specific and nuanced. My favourite UK improviser has to be Cariad Lloyd. So talented and confident. She’s a fantastic teacher too.
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 guess it goes back to labelling where a boy is told he is a leader and a girl is told that she is bossy. A girl who hears that may learn to suppress her stronger characteristics for an easier life but this can mean they can be more afflicted with self doubt which in an improv show can manifest by suppressing their impulses and ideas or even overthink their validity or worthiness to be on stage. This is something I battle with. Not to say some guys don’t suffer imposter syndrome. I’ve always been fortunate to play with gender balanced groups or groups weighted with more women.
What are some of the best bits of advice you have been given about improv and why?
Improv is a team sport so you are never on your own, someone always has your back so if you have an idea step out. It doesn’t matter if you go ‘wrong’. Mistakes are gifts. Follow your impulses.
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’ve been lucky to largely play with people who are more aware than that but would definitely be annoyed if I was pigeon holed and would hope to find a way to turn the stereotype on its head.
What have been some of your favourite moments on stage?
Through my character comedy shows I call upon my improv experience to incorporate the audience in the scenes and the interaction usually produces the funniest moments.
What have been some of the worst and why?
When you let the negative voice in your head dominate and then you stop listening and observing the scene you are in. You stop being present.
For new improvisers, what would your key bit of advice be?
Enjoy yourself. Take feedback from your coach and actively try and work on one element after notes but remember to have fun or what’s the point of it all.
What are three things you want to focus on this season with your own improv?
Committing harder, nuanced physicality, having more fun.
What is the future of improv?
Bright! Some of my favourite tv shows have performers and writers who are improvisers. 30 Rock, Broad City, Parks and Recreation, The Office. Long may they keep hiring comics and improvisers! It also has a place in schools and work spaces for cohesion and confidence.