Lisa Lynn Month – INTERVIEW – Shakespeare, Teaching and Meryl Streep

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 everything to do with acting….

You are also an actress – how is it different to improv?

As I continue to develop my craft the lines are increasingly blurring. I used to be strictly a Stanislavki, table work, 36 questions, plan for everything kind of actor – then I discovered Meisner and PEM. If all of that means nothing, essentially I used to plan my character and come up with their entire life story up to that scene (known as ‘Given Circumstances’)  and based on that, my opinion of the best possible reading/delivery of each line – essentially blocking out what I would do with my face, body, voice, proxemics etc. Then I found acting methods that were more about being free and so responsive that the same scene can be delivered completely differently every time as long as it is truthful in that moment – which is where it crosses with improv – not just the characters in the play in that scene, but the actors on stage that night.

The dialogue will be the same, but the reactions to the dialogue, to the activities you’re doing, and to each other can be ever changing – based on how you both truly feel that night. So it no longer feels that different. Sure, I have to do my research and learn my lines for a play or film, but now in both jobs I arrive open and ready to improvise. The biggest difference being in scripted work I know who I am playing in advance, so I tailor my choices to suit my given circumstances and come from that character’s perspective in each take/performance; in improv I’m mainly using truth in comedy and coming from my own perspective, or the perspectives of people I know really well – plus you only get to do it once of course. ‘Find yourself in the character and the character in you’ is great advice for both.

“…The Southend 48 Hour Improvathon is my favourite show of the year and a community I feel beautifully adopted into…”

Lisa Lynn

What is your favourite type of acting to be a part of?

I adore Shakespeare – the challenge of being completely truthful while speaking such beautiful poetic language. I also increasingly love screen acting, learning to say so much by doing so little. So I guess at this point the dream would be to play the lead in a Shakespeare feature film – especially if it was also a musical – then I’d have all my boxes ticked! Leading an improvised feature film is also on my to do list. 

My favourite projects are always the stories I feel most passionate about – I especially like true stories with naturalistic, believable acting. 

I’d love to play a teacher on screen (after over a decade method-acting it). Teachers deserve footballers wages – as do nurses, fire-fighters and good police officers – more films should be made about them. I take my hat off to career teachers, especially those teaching where they are needed most, and often paid the least. My older sister Claire Greenwood and my best friend Eyvonnie Grant are both teachers in deprived areas, and neither get the recognition they deserve. 

My favourite type of acting is acting that moves people and educates them whilst also being entertaining – great acting affects us and connects us, often promoting reflection and sometimes even a call to action.

Who are your favourite actors and actresses and why?

Meryl Streep – such variety yet such a consistent grace in every role – she also seems like a cool person. Brad Pitt – again for his variety when he could so easily have just played ‘handsome male lead’ in everything. Toheeb Jimoh – because he was my student, and to this day, in over a decade of teaching in over 50 schools, no student has matched his work-ethic and good manners, accept maybe now Acaprov’s Pascal Blaschta. Beth Organ – she is just such a natural protagonist I’d route for her if she was trying to pick a sandwich. She has no idea how good she is, she can give an oscar worthy performance in a 15 minute musical.

“…I found acting methods that were more about being free and so responsive that the same scene can be delivered completely differently every time as long as it is truthful in that moment – which is where it crosses with improv – not just the characters in the play in that scene, but the actors on stage that night...”

Lisa Lynn

Any shows or films that you are loving at the moment?

Ted Lasso – not only because Toheeb is in it, but because it’s ‘feel good’, and has improvisers and musical theatre stars in the cast. This is us – which has inspired my next improv project ‘This is impro’. It’s such stunning acting and writing. Friends – sure, it’s not aged super-well, but I still cry laughing at the clowning, and quote it almost daily. Anything directed by Lynette Linton, or written by Lily and Oscar Pye-Jeary. I’m blessed with extremely talented friends. In the lock down I was obsessed with: Money Heist, Nashville, Humans, Superstore, The Crown and The Handmaid’s Tale. I never usually have time to watch TV, but I suddenly found myself with lots of time while doing night-feeds for my youngest niece.

What can you tell us about up and coming projects you have lined up?

I hope to collaborate with Davide Romeo in Switzerland on the next series of Swiss Secrets (which is a series he and his flat mate started out of their flat during lock-down and is of cinematic standard). I’d love to work with Louise Salter and Bruno Centofanti – I auditioned for their improvised feature film earlier this year and I’m super excited to see what they do next. Actually lined up though? I don’t have that much – I am travelling from September to December on a kind of ‘Eat, Improv, Love’ Tour of the USA – I’m hoping to come back a better performer, teacher and person!

You also are an ‘audition facilitator’ that sounds fascinating tell us about that!

Essentially, where a feature film, play or TV show has improvised elements, and the director or casting agent is less familiar with improv, I am hired to get the actors improvising in the way that is most suitable for that project i.e. total naturalism for TV, theatrical comedy for panto etc.

And you do school visits – that sounds fascinating, what does that entail?

I’ve worked in education alongside acting since I graduated (joys of moving to London as a working class Northerner); so I have taught ages one to adult, from Drama Club to Lecturing to Professional Coaching on set. Now mostly freelance, I go into schools to teach one-off workshops or to train staff in how to teach improv. I am keen to bring TheatreSports to the UK as an official ‘all schools take part’ thing – as I thoroughly believe studying improv makes everyone a better listener and more confident person. RIP Keith Johnstone.

You have other shows that we have not discussed such as Not GCSE Drama shows, The Southend 48 Hour , SHUFFLE and Hell Yeah! The Show – what can you tell us about them?

Not GCSE Drama was a Hoopla Marathon entry that honestly started as an in-joke with those of the Acaprov cast and students that have worked in highschools and taken GCSE Drama themselves. As with all secondary school subjects, unfortunately, there are certain things you need to do to tick boxes for exams – meaning a lot of students end up doing the same things in their performances, in order to get full marks. Those things, inspired by the practitioners on the curriculum, become recognisable GCSE Drama traits in the UK, so well known that the mere mention of one and everyone who had done GCSE Drama immediately joined in, and the show was born! We don’t even rehearse, it’s like riding a bike, I was just shocked other people enjoyed the chaos that is that show – long may it continue. We keep upping the ante, we just bought masks, next…puppets I guess?

The Southend 48 Hour Improvathon is my favourite show of the year and a community I feel beautifully adopted into. Directed by Ali James of SHOWSTOPPER! This year it was set in Middle Mirth, next year it’s on the HMS Gigantic and runs from 7pm March 22nd until Sunday March 24th so please follow us on Facebook now and BOOK TICKETS IN SEPTEMBER as soon as they go on sale, as it’s all for charity – in 2024 it’s for Dementia UK. This year we raised over £2000 for UNICEF and next year we hope to beat that total. My personal dream is to get an entire Hoopla or Aca class to camp out in the theatre and watch the full 48 hours – having an audience makes a HUGE difference when you’re tired. Shout out to Acaprov and Hoopla student Joe Kelsey who not only stayed for the whole thing but helped with the get out this year – that man is a legend!

Hell Yeah! Is Monica Gaga’s show – all queer all female and non-binary cast – and an absolute party on stage! The get is ‘a meaty meet’ – a time you met someone or something that changed your life – from there, the show is whatever delights that night’s cast. We decide things we may want to include on the night when we get there, for example ‘a cross-cutting scene’ and try to include as many treats as possible.

SHUFFLE is the Hoopla House Team that I am on, directed by Steve Roe himself. We experiment with various formats. My favourite so far is ‘Mixed Tape’ which starts and ends with audience selected music, and the vibe of that song is the only get – I love it!

If people want to find out more where do they visit? @hellyeahtheshow on insta

@Southend48thon on Facebook and all social media

@NotGCSEDrama on TikTok and all social media

 @Shuffleimpro on all social media

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