15 November 2012 by Dianne Tipping-Woods

Time to ImproGuise

Armed with only their wits and some arbitrary props, members of the ImproGuise Theatresports team transform into a range of characters and make people laugh out loud with their live, unscripted shows.

Theatresports keeps you thinking on your feet

ImproGuise produces bi-weekly, unscripted theatre shows in Cape Town. 'It’s an absolute thrill, the risk of it all, and not knowing what you are going to be doing and what kinds of characters you’ll be playing,' says Candice D’Arcy, who has been playing Theatresports for 10 years.

She is one of the talented performers in the ImproGuise team, along with Anne Hirsch, Lisa Greenstein, Angela Inglis, Ardine Fick, Leon Clingman, Bridget McCarthy, Ryan Jales, Tandi Buchan and Megan Furniss, who started Theatresports in Cape Town in 1993.

The trademarked Theatresports concept, developed by director Keith Johnstone in 1977, is described as 'an improvisation show in which 2 teams of improvisers compete against each other for points'. There is even an official International Theatresports Institute, with which ImproGuise is registered.

While improvising can be scary, even for seasoned professionals, it can also be profoundly liberating and a source of absolute joy – 'Like playing "pretend" when we were kids, and that actually being your job,' says Candice.

If we were more open to saying yes, and more eager to help others, we’d all be a lot happier in the world.

There are various formats for their shows, including long- and short-form performances. Each one begins with the master or mistress of ceremonies for the evening telling the audience how the show works and encouraging them to make suggestions about a scene’s location, an object to include, or a television, movie or theatre style to play the scene in.

Participation is voluntary, so there is not too much pressure on shyer members of the audience to come up with interesting suggestions. 'We don’t drag people on to stage, or make fun of the front row,' says Candice, 'although helping to make the magic you witness unfolding on stage is really rewarding.'

For someone like me, who hates performing in front of people, what the ImproGuise team does in Cape Town every week really does seem like magic.

'People are terrified of getting up in front of others because they don’t want to open themselves up to ridicule or humiliation. What is so valuable about giving yourself the chance to try, like in our courses, for example, is that you’ll realise it’s not quite as scary as you imagined,' says Candice.

Although the shows are often hilarious, the emphasis is generally on building characters and spontaneous, collaborative storytelling, which entertains the audience and pushes the performers to their creative limits. ImproGuise recently completed a 12-hour soap-opera marathon, in October, where it raised funds for Rape Crisis. 'It was a huge achievement for our company as we had never done anything like that before. We kept a story going for 12 hours, and some surprising things happened on stage.'

At the end of January 2013, the company will do a 2-week run of its long-form shows at the Kalk Bay Theatre, including a full-length Western and a Jane Austen-style romp, among others. Note that these are in addition to weekly performances at the Intimate Theatre on Mondays and at the Kalk Bay Theatre on Tuesdays.

Inspired by a recent improvisation convention called Improvention, ImproGuise has also started experimenting with new formats in its regular shows, such as ‘Sink or Swim’, where pairs of actors tell stories over 4 scenes, and the audience votes which to keep and which to lose.

For Candice, the basic principles of improvisation extend beyond the stage, and have helped her as a person as well as an actor: 'If we were more open to saying yes, and more eager to help others, we’d all be a lot happier in the world.'

And as you can’t improvise if you don’t listen and work together, Theatresports is also a good way to illustrate the importance of teamwork.

'On stage, no one person is more or less important; everyone is working towards the common goal of making something up,' Candice explains. With this in mind, ImproGuise runs improvisation training workshops and courses for corporates and organisations. It also performs at launches and parties, and provides entertainment at fundraisers and functions.

Details of its long-form run: 30 January to 9 February 2013.

  • Wednesday Western
  • Thursday at Thornton Hall (Jane Austen style)
  • Friday Family Musical
  • Saturday Superscene (directors compete to see who will claim the title of Superscene)

This is over and above its usual Monday and Tuesday shows. Tickets are R60 for adults and R40 for students and scholars. There is also a family package for 2 adults and 2 children for R180.

For more information or to book, call +27 (0)72 939 3351, follow @TheatresportsSA on Twitter, or join its Facebook page: ImproGuise: Players of Theatresports.

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