With the difficult times we are facing at the moment, it is the perfect time to try something new whilst you are forced to stay indoors and over the next couple of weeks we are interviewing acts that are putting on everything from projects to lessons. Today, we talk to Rachel and Alex who have provided the world with an online course to help teach narrative improv in lockdown…
Hello there tell us a little bit about yourself!
We’re Rachel E. Thorn and Alex Keen. Together, we make up Sex, Lies & Improvisation, which is a dark comedy about why we lie to the people we love. Before this, we had a show called Between Us, which was the Phoenix Remix Act of the Year 2019, and we also teach long-form improv across the UK, focusing on narrative improvisation and dramatic improv.
Tell us all about the project that you are bringing to the online world at the moment?
We’ve taken our popular half-day workshop on building a narrative improv show and condensed it into a tutorial video for people to watch at home. It’s a perfect way to start planning your next improv project for when you’re out of isolation, whether you’re new to narrative and want to learn the basics, or if you’ve worked with it in the past and want to brush up and get some tips and tricks.
What times does it run throughout the day?
That’s up to the viewer! We made this a video tutorial because it’s quite information-dense and we wanted to make it something people could work through at their leisure and revisit as often as needed.
How much does it cost, what platform etc?
The video costs £8, or $10 for our friends across the pond. We’ve got an unlisted YouTube link so you can view it immediately, and we can also send a link to download a copy so you can view it offline.
How was the project formed?
When the possibility of a lockdown was announced, we realised people were going to be bored and missing their improv fix. We’d already been thinking about video content because we film all our shows so we can review them. In our experience, creating a narrative long-form show is one of those things which requires as much work offstage as it does onstage, getting to know the genre and working out what that means, so our workshop on narrative felt like a perfect first thing to adapt.
How has it been going so far?
We’ve had a lot of interest from people in this country and in the US, and the responses from people who have watched it have been really positive. At the end of the video we mention that we’re thinking about future courses and the feedback has definitely encouraged us to pursue that.
With everything happening in the world at the moment, why is it so important to have activities like yours available?
Adjusting to life in quarantine can be really difficult. Not seeing friends, not being able to pursue your hobbies can have a really negative impact on mental health. Being able to engage with improv and the improv community, even digitally, helps with that a huge amount.
What can people expect over the next few weeks from your project?
With the success of this video, we’re already planning the follow-up, looking at scene work in a narrative show. Now we’re fully quarantined we’ll be filming separately, of course! We’ll also be releasing this next tutorial for free—while it will be most useful to people who have watched our first tutorial, lots of it will be applicable to improvisers of all stripes, narrative-focused or otherwise.
If people want to find out more about you on social media where shall they visit?
Finally why should people get involved?
The tutorial on building a narrative long-form show and the upcoming tutorial on narrative long-form scene work give you a great starting point for exploring these things in the comfort of your own home, drawing on our extensive experience in creating and performing in critically and commercially successful narrative long-form shows to tell you what to strive for, what to avoid, and how to get there. So if you’re looking to get into narrative long-form, it’s a great way to do so. But why do narrative long-form at all?
Lots of long-form improv intentionally avoids narrative, for good reason. Trying to tell an ongoing story in a format that isn’t built for it can disrupt a lot of your show, and telling a satisfying story in an improv show is tough if you don’t know what you’re doing. But when it’s done well, narrative improv is incredibly satisfying to watch and to perform, while developing your instincts for narrative will help make even your standalone scenes more compelling to watch.