There is a brand new show coming to London this week and it comes from the people who created Love and Misinformation. This time they are taking on a Tennessee Williams style of show and I had to find out more. I caught up with Stephen Davidson to find out all about it.
The Glass Imaginary an Improvised Play
Date: 4th-8th February
Location: Drayton Arms Theatre
Price: £8/£5 concession
Ticket Link: click here for tickets
Hello Stephen how are you? Before talking about your show this year, lets reflect on 2019 – how was it for you?
2019 was a bit up and down for me, as the theatre I work with most (The Nursery) lost its space. I had a great year artistically, though, with lots of international teaching and forming a show/company I’m really proud of (Love and Misinformation, The Improvised Play).
Love and Misinformation was the show you were in charge of last year – how did it do at the festivals?
We had a great time! The show got better and better as the year went on, and at Edinburgh, we managed to cram 9 people into a 2-bed apartment and were still friends at the end. Always the mark of a successful run!
So, let’s talk about your new show! What is it all about?
The Glass Imaginary is an improvised play in the style of Tennessee Williams. There’s a lot of drama, sex, violence, poetic imagery, and lush Southern accents. I love when improv has a balance of comedy and drama, and this show feels like it’s hitting all sorts of juicy spots. We’ve got grounded slow burn, charming characters, hilarious moments, and moments that push dramatic improv as far as I’ve seen it pushed.
How did the show come about?
The company I’m doing the show with, The Improvised Play, chooses a different playwright to improvise a play in the style of every year. Last year was Caryl Churchill (Love and Misinformation), and this year it’s Tennessee Williams.
Why Tennessee Williams? What made you decide to use his work?
This is the first Tennessee Williams project I’ve done, but he’s certainly been on my radar. He was famously gay, and that reads very strongly in the subtext (and occasionally actual text) of his plays. As a queer person and a theatre buff I find it really interesting to see how that plays out in his work, and to try to bring a modern viewpoint to that era. We’ve been having a fun time with coded gay characters, social codes of the time, the cultural context those characters would have existed in, and an occasional visible queer relationship.
How hard is it to adapt pieces of written work into an improv sense?
Tennessee Williams (and America in the 1940/50s) is a rich world to delve into. We’ve read a handful of his plays, and watched some movie adaptations, to get into the world a bit more thoroughly. We also worked for a week with Kaci Beeler, an American improviser from Austin, Texas, who had great insight (she’s done improvised Tennessee Williams before, and also has lots of local knowledge about the American South). We had an accent coach as well because we really wanted to do a good job of that.
What three things are you looking forward to about performing in this show?
I really enjoy the use of metaphor and symbolism in Tennessee Williams, and our use of it in the show. I also love working with this cast, there are some really fantastic actors in it. And I love that I’ve never seen an improv show like this in London; it feels exciting.
We have to just change subjects for the moment and talk about your wonderful new blog series you are writing, The Grindr Chronicles – how did they come about?
Oh thanks, I’m glad you like them! My professional goal for 2020 is to do more writing, including blogs and another book, so I’ve got a whole list of things I want to write about. I chose to start with the Grindr Chronicles because I feel like I’ve learned a lot from my experiences and I wanted to share that with people who likely won’t have the same experience. I feel like there are a lot of interesting things to be learned from joining a new community, and from doing things that challenge you on a personal level, which are things any of us can do.
I find them a truly fascinating read and really admire how you have put your own personal experience out on the internet to make some really strong points about improv. What inspired you to do this?
It does feel a little bit like over-sharing, but to be honest I quite like that. When others share personal experiences with me it makes me feel closer to them, so it pleases me to share mine as well. I love the kind of improv (and art in general) that emerges with real vulnerability, so it’s something I make a conscious choice to practice in my life.
What have been some of the most important improv lessons you have learnt from your experiences?
I think that vulnerability is a lesson I keep learning over and over again; it’s really got a huge potential for personal growth as well as acting/improv pedagogy, and fostering trust and intimacy in a community. It’s also interesting to see the way Grindr operates as a community because it’s mostly a series of 1:1 interactions. Improv is all about big group funtimes, but I don’t always feel like it fosters a sense of intimacy. It’s easy to improvise for years and feel like you have hundreds of friendly acquaintances and very few close friends, because of the way we tend to interact in those group situations.
It is the month of February – what three things do you love about improv and why?
I love how quickly you can connect to another person, I love the potential to explore experiences outside what you could possibly have in real life, and I love that we can make things in a collaboration that none of us could make on our own. I love all three things because I love people; we’re infinitely fascinating.
It is a new decade – what would you like to see happen to improv in the next 10 years?
I’d love to see diversity and inclusivity become a more intuitive part of more people’s practice. I feel like we’ve all realised it’s an issue and I see people trying, but changing your day-to-day feelings and behaviours takes a real effort. The shift from box-ticking to genuinely being without judgement or assumption takes repetition, as does the skill of active inclusivity.
How do you warm up before a show?
Depends on the show! The Glass Imaginary is done with Southern accents, so we always do a voice warmup. I like to do a little check-in too, for example, a stretch and share, because it’s a show that needs a high level of trust and connection.
What have been some of the best suggestions that you have been given in a show and why?
I love when people give a suggestion of something meaningful to them, rather than just a funny word, because it sets a tone for the show that we’re being earnest and really trying to let our work be truthful.
If people want to find out more about you where can they follow you on social media?
I’m @yesandstephen on twitter, and the show is @glass_imaginary
You can find The Improvised Play on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/improvisedplay/
And on Instagram I’m stephendavidson84, and the show is theimprovisedplay
And Finally in three words – Why should people come and see the show?
Because it’s different!