INTERVIEW: Race and Improv Workshop This Weekend

This week we have an exclusive interview with Ariane Barnes, the founder of the DIfferent Women Project. The aim of the organisation is to empower women of colour and lgbtq women in the performance world to stand tall and strong in their craft through performance & psychology.

This Sunday 22nd of November she’s leading a one of a kind workshop: ‘New! Race & improv’ rooted in self care, movement and scene work for improvisers of color with Improvisers Monica Gaga & Minder Kaur Athwal. I caught up with Ariane to find out all about it .

Hello Ariane, tell us a bit about you… 

I’m a British-Mauritian performer, improviser and teacher. I’m also holistic empowerment worker, which basically means I use all of my creative skills to help uplift and empower my community through what comes to me naturally, acting, singing, dance, and improv- always, it’s always just been there as the back bone to most of what I do. 

Tell us why you decided to focus on the subject of race in Improv? 

It’s been a long time coming, the reality is that POC have a different set of complications to face when asked to make bold, colourful (no pun intended) choices on stage and there’s no support available for those performers. That’s struck me as really silly, we have some fantastic women of colour in improv that have amazing skills to share and navigating these issues is something we’ve all had to do. ‘Yes and’ still has to be safe and fun for everyone. If there are things getting in the way of that, they need to be openly discussed and addressed by the people it concerns without fear- I wanted to make that possible. 

You did a ‘research jam’ in November- what was that about? 

It’s really important to me that what I’m putting out there is properly informed by the needs of the community I’m aiming to support. It’s especially important for POC. I wanted to find a way of getting the right information on these issues and also make sure it was fun, inclusive and safe, so I picked practitioners I thought would make that an easy and beautiful process, and then asked our players for their thoughts and feelings about a range of subjects like performance and teaching opportunities, mental health and safeguarding and what they really wanted to see happen next. 

Will you be sharing the results of this research? 

The NEW! Race & improv Workshop on Sunday 22nd, is based on the research we collated in the sense that i’m responding to the need we identified to have more female-led, BIPOC safe spaces and diverse improv classes out there. We’ll also be holding another event in December which is open to everyone where Monica, Minder, and I present the research in a very frank panel format with a Q& A. 

What do you hope people will get out of this workshop? 

The day is open all genders and all levels of experience of performance and Improv. It’s our hope players will leave with a sense of deeper joy and understanding when it comes to how they relate to their own game on a cultural level and how they take care of themselves whilst doing it. It’s essentially giving them a tool kit to establish and maintain their own boundaries around their work, whilst having fun and enriching their game in a safe atmosphere with experienced practitioners.

Why are you so passionate about a holistic approach to Improv? 

At the centre of every good game is a set of strong, healthy players. And for some reason we forget that. We forget all about the very human consequences of shoving our boundaries and needs aside for the ‘good of the team’, scene or show- when you’re a minority that can be very hard to handle in the long term because we are constantly trying to ‘fit the norm’ which can be very problematic when we’re talking about an individuals race, identity and cultural belonging being at odds with the majority. We also forget the role of the body in our game and the tensions we carry onto stage. By acknowledging and taking care of everything that goes into being a performer, namely, the body, mind and personality, we build stronger players that make amazing choices and don’t burn-out as a result of pushing themselves too hard or feeling unheard. An empowered individual makes for a great player and a fantastic show! 

Who is involved and what will the day consist of ? 

We’re really proud to say all event tutors on Different Women events are female identifying, BAME and/or LGBTQ. I will open day with a joyous ‘Body-prov’ session focusing on wellness techniques, music, movement and breath work to enable relaxed, connected playing led by me, followed by some time to connect to and learn some emotional resilience and mental health support and techniques with myself and Minder Kaur Atwal. And to end the day the fabulous Monica Gaga will be leading a workshop on making choices that empower us within scenes. 

Who can attend? 

The basic requirement is that you are a performer or improviser of color. Other than that no former experience is required and it’s open to all genders. Different Women love to focus on a performers unique ability and traits so this really is the place to discover this and bring it to life to enrich your craft. We strongly encourage players of all levels to attend to create a diverse community of international players. 

What is the date and time of the event? 

It’s on the 22nd Of November 20202 @ 2pm GMT- 5.30 P.M. Tickets are on a sliding scale basis via eventbrite and we’re a non-profit so all our sales go towards paying the tutors and putting on future events for you! 

Is there anything else we should keep an eye out for? 

Yes there will be a range of new classes starting in 2021 for both BIPOC players and allies- so follow us on social media to stay up to date! You can always reach me with any questions, ideas or ideas for collaborations on Race & Improv Tickets available on eventbrite: You can follow The Different Women Project on Facebook , Instagram and twitter. Website:

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