Formosa Improv Group formed Summer of 2018 in MRT stations and has blossomed to having a multilingual troupe that has dabbled in long, short and musical forms of improv. June featured our first Monoscene show, led by core performers Andrei Veja and Olof Nordenstom. Below are their impressions of the show and improv in Taipei.
Our July main stage show at the Red Room brings us back to the basics of improv (think: Whose Line Is It Anyway?). Join us July 27, 2019 for Getting FIGgy wit it! Doors open at 7:30pm.
Save the date for FIG’s first anniversary show, to be held at the Social Innovation Lab on August 17, 2019 (doors open at 7pm). FIGs first Level 2 graduates will open for our anniversary show and we will be featuring fellow improv friends from Skits and Giggles (all the way from Taichung).
FIG’s August main stage show at the Red Room will be held on August 24, 2019 (doors open at 7:30pm).
Thank you for your support! Yes, and…”
When I first began practicing improv with the group that was to become FIG, I never even considered the thought of ever performing onstage. I was already having so much fun being able to create scenes together and bond with this group of people. Some regulars and newcomers, some very experienced and some who were trying improv for the first time. But among the faces that would show up the most often, what everyone had in common was a passion for improv, a desire to challenge oneself, and a fun and playful personality.
Fast forward to August 2018, after FIG had already been formed and named, and there was already talk of performing our first show. Naturally, I was nervous and felt unprepared, but if there was one thing that I had learned from improv, it was that an improviser will never be more prepared than when they’re present in the moment they’re on stage. To this day, as soon as I step out on stage in a performance, regardless of how I was feeling before that, all fear and uncertainty dissolve. And this is why I love doing improv and being part of FIG so much. I’ve learned so much about myself, become more confident, more flexible, more positive and accepting, and have learned to appreciate the art of improv on an entirely different level; and, most importantly, I’ve been able to share this journey with the trusting family we call FIG.
I used to think one had to come up with creative ideas in improv in order to make a scene entertaining, but I realized that there are no real ideas in improv, only inspiration and discovery. This was the idea behind the FIG’s show in June. We wanted FIG to slow things down this time and thus allow ourselves to explore our characters and relationships on a deeper level. We felt like the best format to do this was the monoscene, in which one location remains constant throughout the entire scene, in which there are no cuts or flashbacks, and which can last anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes. As soon as the performers receive a suggestion from the audience for a location (which, for each respective story in our show, were given as: a train station in Chernobyl, a pool, and a gay club), they have to immediately decide on how the space would look, given only chairs and their imaginations to allow the audience to see the space as if it were real. Then, they have mere seconds to imagine what kind of characters would exist in this space and to decide whether they will be onstage or offstage when the lights go up and the scene begins.
Over the next 20-30 minutes, the improvisers continue to be inspired by the space and by each other, and slowly discover the deeper motivations behind their characters’ decisions and their relationships with other characters. At the same time, improvisers are given the freedom to exit and enter the scene as they see fit. By the end, the story may have taken several twists and turns, with truths and surprises revealed that are as entertaining for the improvisers as they are for the audience.
We certainly had fun practicing monoscenes played out in a variety of locations throughout the entire month of June, and have learned valuable skills about the power of discovery in improv. The decision to take on the challenge of performing a monoscene was made after several of our members attended a workshop taught by improv guru Jonathan Pitts during our trip to the Manila Improv Festival earlier this year in March. We immediately realized that this was what FIG needed. Of course, as we continue to grow and learn, we will refine our improv skills by exploring a variety of formats, but I am thankful for having been able to discover more about ourselves as a group through the monoscene, and are always eternally grateful to Red Room for providing the perfect space to share this experience with the audience.
I concur with all of Andrei’s reflections, and not only because the first rule of improv is to say yes. It’s been a pleasure to work with Andrei to develop our monoscene skills. Improv is at its best when not only the audience is surprised but also the actors themselves. By slowing down the pace and removing the typical tricks that improvisers often fall back on, the monoscene format creates the perfect conditions for such surprises. I’m amazed at how quickly FIG has developed a group mind and listening skills that allow us to jointly discover fascinating and unexpected stories. More to come.
Andrei Veja is a linguist, avid language learner, and language-learning coach who has discovered his passion for improv over the past year as a member of FIG.
Olof is a software developer and Chinese language enthusiast who first joined the improv community in Beijing in 2009.