All this month we have a very special interview that you can read along to every Wednesday morning with non other then Lisa Lynn. An actress and improviser of many talents who is also a teacher as well and is part of many teams including Acaprov, Hell Yeah! The Show, The Southend 48 Hour Annual Improvathon, Not GCSE Drama, SHUFFLE and MusicBox. This month we sit down with Lisa to discuss everything from performing, travelling and the shows that she is a part of. Today we talk about all things improv!
You are part of a group called Acaprov – how did that group come around?
Acaprov was founded after I applied for a Nursery Theatre ‘Nursery Originals Grant’ in 2018.
Tell us a little bit about each member?
We are on the cusp of bringing in several new cast members, as we always need a pool of 20 to get 12 regularly for rehearsals and shows – but our current fully-fledged members are:
Beth Organ – Joined 2019. STUNNING Singer, professional actress, musician and much loved heart of the group. She also knows BSL and runs the Podcast ‘My Dad Would Know’.
Scott MacDonald – Joined 2019. A professional performer, occasionally on sabbatical from Aca working on cruise ships, but always working behind the scenes (even from the middle of the sea). Scott is a complete ball of light on stage and in rehearsal
Jamal Johnson – Joined 2019. Wildly good all rounder – sings, dances, acts, raps – though he was completely new to improv when he first joined, there is literally nothing he can’t do!
Christian Lunn – Joined in 2019. Professional singer but is currently on sabbatical as he stepped off the Rocky Horror International Tour straight onto working on a cruise ship. He is also a singing teacher and you can find him @TheNorthernVocalCoach
James Daye – Joined 2020. Cherry picked from the Southend 48 Hour Improvathon, he’s our longest commuting member and a natural storyteller, whose supportive improv is second to none. He commits to everything he does, and is a constant professional! You can catch him in ExtremeImprov and at The Laughter Academy Southend
Sam Elwin – Joined 2021. Currently on sabbatical, Sam is a musician, actor and photographer. He is an excellent band leader and songwriter, and he used his photography skills to help us with our posters. We look forward to his return.
Matt Prestage – Joined 2021 after being scouted from Will Naameh’s online RAP class. Ex-President of the Sheffield Uni Improv Troupe SHRIMPS and co-founder of Foolish Bandits – he is an extremely quick thinker, hard worker and great improviser with total FIRE rap. You can also catch him in Hoopla House Teams SHUFFLE, The MOB and new show RumourVille
Adam Courting – Joined 2021. His energy is second to none. A kind and hard-working man, he is not only an improviser but also an actor, puppeteer, writer, voiceover artist, forest school practitioner and father. He can also be found at Hoopla Impro in Do The Right Scene.
Kelsey Yuhara – Joined 2022. She’s another incredible all-rounder: a professional actor and director; a self-taught improviser; a wicked singer; and essentially our dance captain – she also runs our inclusive jams at The Green. You can also catch her performing with ComediAsians and Special Delivery at HOOPLA Impro.
Harmony Chan – Joined in July 2022 after taking part in our first ever Acaprov ‘Beginners to A Cappella Improv’ course. Having trained with the FA and SHOWSTOPPER! and been in choirs for 15 years, she had everything she needed to hit the ground running; and has been making us better ever since.
Anjali Singh – Joined in 2022 after trying an a cappella number with Logan and I at a SHUFFLE (Hoopla House Team) rehearsal. As an actor and writer she is a natural story-teller and we’re glad to have her back after 7 months sabbatical travelling India.
Joel KS – Joined 2022. Headhunted off the back of his stand-up comedy and improv at Do The Right Scene. He is a barrister as well as a hilarious comedian and improviser; we will miss him hugely while he is on sabbatical from September to do more stand-up.
Jen O’Connor – Joined 2022. Another steal from Laughter Academy in Southend. Jen is a voice teacher by trade and a phenomenal improviser and mother. We were in awe this year watching her improvise a duet with herself as two lead characters in the Southend 48 Hour Improvathon. She’s the perfect balance of witty and grounded, talented and humble – a brilliant singer and actress – next we want her to sing a group number solo as five characters!
Pascal Blaschta – Joined 2022 after smashing his Acaprov Beginners Course. He sings like a dream, raps like Harry Mack, and is hungry and humble in a way that is truly inspiring. He is an actor currently making a rap documentary; plays guitar; and studies beatboxing and throat singing on the side. If he’s not famous by 30, we will all be surprised.
Ayla Pengelly-Moore – Joined in 2022 but is currently on sabbatical. She has a degree in comedy, works for Hoopla Impro, The Angel Comedy Club and The Bill Murray and co-runs RumourVille. She was an AcaStudent and is also in Hoopla House Team SHUFFLE, as well as doing stand-up comedy, teaching and running jams – she’s a warrior woman!
Isabel Horner – is our latest recruit, joining only this April. Recommended by Matt from his Hoopla house team. She is a fantastic improviser as well as vocal coach, so she is a perfect fit. Everyone is really excited to work with her since she pulled a minor key accompaniment with body-percussion in her first ever rehearsal – rockstar!
“…Most of my students return to me: Hoopla level 1, 2, 3, 4 Acaprov level 1 and 2 – then some have joined Not GCSE Drama and Acaprov as full members...”Lisa Lynn
Do you have to study other a cappella groups to really understand it well?
No. Though it certainly helps – but music theory and practice are two separate things. Knowing the perfect chord doesn’t mean you can play or sing it. Given our entire cast are involved in both the narrative and the musical accompaniment, their heads are already full – so worrying too much about the a cappella musical theory can prohibit good listening, which is vital to the improv and the story.
The entire cast are extremely talented – instinct, feeling the music, pulling rhymes from childhood stories, harmonies from your favourite bands, and cadences from songs you know well – is a much more heart-led way to play. Human voices singing, chanting and making music together is one of the most natural and oldest art-forms in the world – we take inspiration from circle-singing (which we were introduced to by Tiziana Pozzo who we hired to teach us body-percussion) as well as rehearsed a cappella.
Favourite type of show song to perform with the team?
I love a counterpoint – it’s very ‘Les Mis’, really not that difficult, and always an immediate wow-factor for the audience. A close second are ‘Bumming songs’ – a duet format I invented inspired by the song ‘First Date/Last Night’ from ‘Dog Fight’ the musical – the freedom of a non-verbal shared chorus is reminiscent of scatting in Jazz and always creates really exciting harmonies and melodic lines. Tableaux songs are in third place for me – so stagey, and as tropey as scenes from ‘Not GCSE Drama’ – but again a total ‘wow factor’ for the audience as it’s something you see in full-scale musicals on the West End and Broadway, if only we had a rotating stage like Hamilton! Montage songs are also fast becoming a cast fave.
“…The Jams are a very proud achievement. They were born of necessity after many of my improv students from Acaprov, Hoopla and International Festivals shared how scary jams were…”Lisa Lynn
What is your favourite part of the show of Acaprov?
I love the closing numbers – a celebration of a show well done; story arc’s perfectly tied up with a bow; big emotional payoffs; and lots of high energy group dance.
Tell us about the courses that you hold with the team?
Many of our cast members are fully qualified teachers – caring, growth-mindset people tend to find each-other. As such we have a rich pool to offer courses from, everyone’s an expert in something. Because A Cappella Improv is our USP, that is the first course that we decided to offer – initially online to the huge pool of musical improvisers looking to learn new skills around the world, while it was extremely difficult to do musical improv online. Christian offered a singing course. Internationally we’ve also led acting, improv and Freestyle RAP intensives.
Our last ‘Beginners: Introduction to A Cappella Improv 6 week course’ of this year begins June 22nd 7pm in Kennington: https://www.jokepit.com/e/9747
Pascal and James will be offering a 6 week Freestyle RAP course ‘Off The Dome: Acaprov Improvised Rap’: https://www.jokepit.com/e/9748 from the 14th of September in Stoke Newington.
I am also teaching internationally this spring at the Alesund Improv Fest May 19th – 21st and in Warsaw June 23rd-25th, links on my website: www.lisalynn.co.uk
What about the jams?
The Jams are a very proud achievement. They were born of necessity after many of my improv students from Acaprov, Hoopla and International Festivals shared how scary jams were, the ‘mixed bag’ you have to expect, and how womxn in particular didn’t feel comfortable – so we decided to offer ‘SafeJam’ where no punching down humour is allowed; and ‘Ladies First’ – an all Female Jam space (with non-binary performers who feel safe in that space also welcome) lead by a female improviser. The fantastic Kelsey Yuhara is currently hosting both jams 5.30-7.30pm the first and third Sunday of the month.
You have also now got a residency – tell us about that?
It’s super exciting! The wonderful literal magician Andrew Phoenix (who I met through incredibly talented improviser, singer and friend Emma Wessleus) was working at indoor crazy golf and cocktail bar ‘Shoreditch Balls’ when he convinced them that their empty basement would make a great fringe theatre. All the necessary paperwork and insurance later ‘The Green’ was born – a fantastic comedy and theatre venue beneath Shoreditch Balls complete with raised stage, tech box, its own bar, and up to 65 seats with extra room standing. Acaprov were invited to perform there as a resident company, and do so every second Friday of the calendar month. Andrew was also kind enough to let us stage our monthly jams and student showcases there as well, which take place at the end of each course. We are super grateful and we absolutely love it!
Where can people find out more information?
www.acaprov.com and https://www.shoreditchballs.com/stageshows
What shows do your team have coming up:
Fresh back from the Brighton Fringe May 6-8th 4pm at The Walrus we have:
Our resident show at The Green Friday May 12th 7.30pm https://www.jokepit.com/e/8756
Our SafeJam at The Green Sunday May 28th 5.30pm
Our LadiesFirst Jam at The Green Sunday June 4th 5.30pm
Our resident show at The Green Friday June 9th 7.30pm https://www.jokepit.com/e/9670
Our SafeJam at The Green Sunday June 18th 5.30pm
Our LadiesFirst Jam at The Green Sunday July 2nd 5.30pm
Our resident show at The Green Friday July 14th 7.30pm https://www.jokepit.com/e/9671
Our SafeJam at The Green Sunday June 18th 5.30pm
And hopefully the Camden Fringe and the Edinburgh Fringe in August – but we are still waiting to hear back!
You also teach improv – how has that been going?
Great. It really helps you to become a better improviser and it’s nice to do something that pays the bills but also helps people. I am very grateful to Steve Roe for trusting me to teach for HOOPLA this early in my improv career. I have been a fully qualified Performing Arts teacher since 2012, mainly teaching Acting; but the feedback I have had from teaching improv has been life-affirming. One of my students quit his job because doing the course made him realise ‘life is too short to spend it drained from work’. Another rediscovered his passion for singing, dyed his hair rainbow colours and has taken off into a music career. Others have told me improv literally saved their life. It’s so much more than comedy – it’s confidence, community, creativity, feeling seen and heard, and finding somewhere you can be completely authentic and accepted.
What is your favourite lesson to teach?
‘You are enough’. My friend Sarah Ross (@yourreasontobreathe) said it to me in an acting class in LA and I just immediately broke down in tears. We are all so unbelievably harsh on ourselves it’s a hard lesson to learn. Truth in comedy – realising that comedy comes from universal truths, empathy, representation and the knowledge that your weird delight is someone else’s favourite thing too (like the smell of an empty mint TicTac box – a passion my partner and I oddly share). It’s so nice to see the moment when a student stops trying to be perfect, and starts enjoying the fact that they are perfectly imperfect just the way they are. (Hard recommend Maria Peters Truth in Comedy intensive).
“...We are on the cusp of bringing in several new cast members, as we always need a pool of 20 to get 12 regularly for rehearsals and shows…”Lisa Lynn
What is the most challenging?
Editing – too early and you end up with all the best scenes cut short; too late and the bad scenes die a slow painful death in front of you. For me, it’s taken years: I started by improvising musicals, where for the most part the song IS the edit – you do the scene until the song starts then once you’ve finished the song there’s a black out and the next scene begins – easy!
Learning backwards to mid-form montages and short form, it’s really teaching that has taught me when and where to edit, learning the hard way on both sides. I’m looking forward to teaching Hoopla Level 4 this month for the first time – that’s all about editing – so it will be great to see people start to trust their instincts and get good at it over the 8 week course. Shout out to techies editing the lights on the fly – what an epic skill!
Do you keep in contact with your students to see how they are developing in improv?
Absolutely. They all have my phone number. I always go for a drink after class(albeit a pint of blackcurrant cordial and tap water – no ice – for the sake of my vocal chords). Most of my students return to me: Hoopla level 1, 2, 3, 4 Acaprov level 1 and 2 – then some have joined Not GCSE Drama and Acaprov as full members. Some international students have appeared at several of my workshops in different countries and festivals across Europe. Acaprov especially is super nerdy and super hard work – we tend to collect stagey harmony nerds that cannot get enough, we like to talk about it after class then go to karaoke and sing some more! I like to collect great people, there’s no better asset than a person that adds more joy, love and light in your life – and I love to connect great people with great people!
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