ComedySportz Manchester – INTERVIEW – Teaching Kids, Business and Taking On The World…

This month we are celebrating the improv Scene in Manchester and all month we are talking to ComedySportz to find out all about it! This week we talking Brainne about adapting to the online world in Lockdown, entering thr world of business improv and teaching children and students.

What are some of your earliest memories of your early improv performances?

I hosted for about the first 3 years of our shows, my first actual performance without hosting was in Washington DC at The Improv in 2003. It was amazing being part of the All Stars match playing with fabulous people like Chris Tallman, and wearing Jill Bernard’s sweat pants because I didn’t have any!

You hold workshops – tell us all about them!

We do indeed! Currently we are running weekly digital drop-ins (Saturday’s 3-5pm) run by various teachers in our troupe. We are also running semi-regular online Stand-Up courses too.

Tell us about your players?

They are fabulous. A complete mix of people from all over the country. We currently still have 5 players from our Chorley days too – so there are a number of us who all started the same time way back in 2001.

How do you find new players?

The main way we get new players is through our workshops, we ask people to join that way. We are currently very full so we may not be taking anyone on for a while. We have held auditions in the past though when we have needed a bigger boost in players.

Tell us all about ComedySportz Business?

We provide bespoke workshops for businesses. Last year we delivered a number of workshops looking at ways of employing “Yes, And” in the workplace as a way of collaborating and communicating as a team. One workshop was especially great when one of the employees said they had read the theory but it was only by doing and playing that they finally understood what it meant. There’s always one employee, normally a bloke, who is a little stand-offish and trying to do jokes so it’s always a joy when we can break down their barriers like that.

You also offer workshops for schools as well?

Absolutely. This is something we started off doing because we began as part of a Youth Theatre. We have worked with a lot of schools around the country – leading workshops in confidence building, improvisation, acting, teambuilding and more. It can be exhausting, but very fun.

What can children gain from improv skills?

Kids are incredibly imaginative so we don’t need to tell them how to “make stuff up” but sometimes they need the confidence to play and express themselves. We look at teaching them how to verbalise emotion and reaction. How to work well with others. Where to channel their humour and impulses in a way that is positive and supportive of each other.

How about university students?

Well, this is my other job. I’ve been teaching Improv in HE for over 10 years at this point. I teach Shortform Improv, Longform Improv and Improv for Actors. All work towards different objectives. This week I just wrapped up completing my first year Shortform students module online. They were such a fun group who were willing and able to switch from stage to small Zoom box well.

How have you adapted to the world of online with Lockdown that has happened?

Surprisingly easily. I might be very bubbly on stage but I’m a bit of an introvert really so performing without having to leave the house has been quite relaxing!

We’re doing three livestream shows a week; Wednesdays 7pm, Fridays 12.30pm and Saturdays 7pm. We’re also releasing full versions of shows filmed prior to lockdown – I keep everything for posterity – every Monday at 7pm.

Has it lead to new fans and viewers?

It has helped keep our regular audience interested, and we have gained people who ‘always meant to watch the show’ but haven’t until now. We’ve also had a few international viewers from people who have seen us at the Edinbugh Fringe. The online format means that we can interact with our audience even more than usual, and that has been the most fun part of this so far. You have to communicate with the viewers, you have to make it a good experience for them.

When you have been in lockdown you have done a lot of shows with other ComedySportz teams across the world – is this something new or have you done this before?

Being part of a ‘worldwide’ company is amazing – teams from around the world responded to the COVID crisis really quickly, collaborating and working together to find ways of keeping shows going.

We have had visiting players from ComedySportz Worldwide before and a few of our players take part in the ComedySportz World Championship every year but the UK has never had the opportunity to guest with so many other teams as often as we have the last few months. Which is ironic really – isolation has made us more connected!

We have also managed to welcome back one of our own players who moved to Germany last year. He can play with us again and that’s awesome 

ComedySportz Manchester – INTERVIEW –

More from ComedySportz next Wednesday

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