Alex and I have created a new show: Sex, Lies & Improvisation, a dark comedy about lying together. We’re touring it 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: Benjamin Tucker
Location of Hero-ing: Brighton
Community event: Scoops
Troupes: 2prov with Simon Goodway or Jo O’Gorman, and The Hunt For The Smoking Caterpillar.
Rachel: Tell us about Scoops.
Ben: I run Scoops at The Maydays Studio on the last Friday of every month with Simon Goodway. It benefits the mental health charity Mind. Scoops invites all acts, new and experienced, to get some stage time, and for an audience to see all and jam if they like. We run jams at the end of every show. We randomly pair volunteers from the audience to do a short scene. There is no strict format – we feel and follow!
Rachel: How did you get into improvisation?
Ben: I applied for a pottery class which was full. Under that was the Maydays beginners class. When I first witnessed improv, I couldn’t understand why more people weren’t involved!
Rachel: What’s the appeal?
Ben: Awareness. Playing plants, bears, women, benches, all sexualities, all things, people and labels attached to them. Becoming an extension of my own awareness with these forms is the most enlightening way of realising how I treat them, or how I would like to be treated as them.
Rachel: You also run The Hunt For The Smoking Caterpillar. What’s that?
Ben: Live immersive gaming experiences in London and Brighton. I created Buckbuck Games to bring people together for play with human interaction. The game invites members of the public into a New Wonderland, where they unwittingly become our scene partners as they hunt down Russell the Smoking Caterpillar! It was heavily inspired by John Cremer’s Cuckoo’s Nest at The Maydays retreat. We’re also opening up non-profit shows to local groups who require social assistance.
Rachel: What does an improv community need to thrive?
Ben: To thrive, an improv community would need to stray from the idea of community, and harness an open and inclusive platform for all to play. There is an imaginary barrier that leaves many saying, “I could never do that.” ‘That’ which is already inside them! ‘That’ which they do every day, in their own form of character! There are methods of training to become an experienced improvisor, but the path does not begin with a map of courses, classes and exercises. It just needs a willingness to play, and we all have that once we get over any serious or exclusive labels.
Rachel: What are the best things about your improv community?
Ben: A bunch of people who will accept and support any character you choose to become. How many friends do that? You could even begin to redefine friendship based upon those who nourish choices, and those who do not.
Rachel: I love your focus on acceptance and inclusivity.
Ben: Inclusivity is often top of mind during a game with an immersive audience. Characters are on the look-out for anyone who looks like they’re not being caught up in the flow of excitement. The energy of the room relies upon the bubbling energy of all.
Rachel: What’s challenging about being an improv community hero?
Ben: Setting up events involves the product itself, operations, marketing and finance. These are essential processes which sit outside the realm of play. My previous life as an advertising creative helps with the marketing, I have an excellent accountant, work with a reliable and talented actors/improvisors, and am in touch with many London and Brighton venues. It doesn’t feel heroic to do bring all these together, but it would feel criminal to not do.
Rachel: I find marketing a real challenge. What advice can you share?
Ben: Use hooks. Improv is only a hook to people who like improv. Get more by being clever with the comms. Nobody cares about your group name until after they have seen you, so get them there first. Use borrowed interest of what is going to be in fashion when the show comes out, e.g. Tea & Toast’s Blah Blah Land sold out with a La La Land inspired poster. Think about your market. Who are they? Where do they go? What do they think? Is a flyer or poster the only way to reach them? I’d happily share my advertising experience with anyone reading this attempting to get themselves out there. Gimme a shout via firstname.lastname@example.org
Rachel: What drives you to be an improv community hero?
Ben: Everyone really appreciates Scoops, and that is lovely, but it was really just a way of doing more improv and seeing more of the wonderful talent out there. So I’m happy that everyone wants the same that I do. There’s no hero intention involved, just a selfish love for improv that everyone else is invited to!