The Lindsay Thurber Raiders Improv team returned home from the Canadian Improv Games recently after taking fourth place at the annual provincial competition in Edmonton.
“It was a great weekend,” said Raiders Improv Coach Tara Koett of the annual improv games, which is part of a larger teen improv festival put on by Rapidfire Theatresports in Edmonton.
After playing to a bronze medal in the Nosebowl Theatresports Tournament, the first part of that festival, the Raiders headed into the Edmonton tournament with high hopes as they competed against high school improv teams from all over the province for the right to represent Alberta at the upcoming national tournament in Ottawa.
The Canadian Improv Games is a national tournament which features over 300 teams from across the country that are selected during regional tournaments, such as the Alberta regionals in Edmonton held recently.
“It’s an Olympic-style tournament. There are five different events and each event highlights a different skill set that an improviser should ideally have,” Koett explained.
Each team has up to eight players with two alternates and teams play four out of the five events on their night of play.
In each event, kids are given a 15 second huddle for planning and then they have up to four minutes for their scenes.
“For example our team this year, we did a story event in the style of a Robert Munsch story, we did our theme and our life events and then we did our style event in the style of comedia del arte, a style of theatre from the Italian Renaissance which relies really heavily on physicality and clown and mask work,” said Koett.
She noted that the improv games and improv in general is a great way for students to get out and be themselves.
“I think it’s really remarkable what improv does for people in general,” said Koett, who improvises professionally with Rapidfire in Edmonton as a member of their senior ensemble and who teaches workshops with the group.
She said she sees people coming into workshops from all walks of life – from retirees to police officers and everything in between.
“There’s something really special about the high school games. It’s just the principle of listening, of saying ‘yes’, of being completely supported and finding positivity and finding creative ways to solve problems and just allowing themselves to be confident onstage and have their characters be effective. There are so many life skills that are taught there.”
Improv, she said, also brings people together who wouldn’t normally spend time with each other.
“It’s an art form that celebrates failure, which is rare in our world. In high school especially it’s rare to be celebrated for failing and learning,” Koett said, noting that improvisers learn from their failures and become more resilient as a result.
Currently in Red Deer both Lindsay Thurber and Hunting Hills High School offer improv programs for their students.
Koett said she encourages anyone who has never tried improv to go out and take a class or an introductory workshop and to get involved with the art form.
“It’s really accessible. Anyone can do it. You really might surprise yourself and the benefit of that culture of ‘yes’ and total support — there’s nothing else like it in the whole world.”