imprology, improvisation based training

Improviser of the month        July 2008

What is your name?
Phil Whelans.
Where do you live and work?
London (UK)
What is your day job?
Writer-performer and hyphen-user.
How did you discover improvisation?
Someone rang me up and asked me if I wanted to be in a show at the Donmar Warehouse and I did, so she told me to come along to a workshop one Sunday afternoon, late 1987.
How do you practice improvisation?
At the moment, I do a show once a week called Grand Theft Impro. Also, comedy writing helps to keep the rust at bay.
How did you learn?
So that we could be in this show at the Donmar, - Theatresports - Alan Marriot taught the basics to people like me who couldn't already do it. From then on, doing the show was a steep… not so much learning curve as learning vertical face. I can also remember two really good workshops in those early days; one with John Elk, who got us to do dialogue totally unrelated to the activity we were doing and one with Keith Johnstone, who got me and Toby Sedgwick to crash into the damn iceberg even though we were being passably amusing as two people on the Titanic. Before I did any impro, though, I did quite a lot of stuff with people like leCoq, Gaulier and John Wright which proved to be really good prep.
Any advice for beginners?
· Don't worry about what you're going to do, think about what you'd like to see happen.
· If you do games and you think a particular game "works" or is "better" than other games, I think you're playing that game wrong.
· Play Freeze-Tag a lot.
What is your favourite improvisation quote?
Impro's not like scripted entertainment. It's more like sport; it's always "working" - not just when goals are being scored (or something like that) - Keith Johnstone.
The most satisfying story or scene you ever improvised in?
Some time in 1989, Alan Marriot, Phil Pellew, Lesley Albiston and myself did a little run of narratives at the Canal Cafe. In one of them, I was a little boy who was so poor, his only entertainment was to get inside this rickety discarded wardrobe and look out through a knothole, through which he imagined he saw amazing things. He called this the "infinity cabinet." In a seemingly unrelated plot strand, Phil P. played a soldier in Vietnam or Korea who, when he wasn't being forced (Deer Hunter style) to act out Shakespeare by a sadistic prison guard (Alan), was kept for days on end in a coffin-sized wooden box… his only connection with the outside world being a knothole with which his eye lined up. When this came about, the hairs on everyone's necks, including the performers, stood on end. Oh, it did have jokes too.
Your favourite improvisation website
This one.
Your main website

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