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Ready, Steady, Play! – The Many Benefits of Improv

Not many people know what improv or improvisational theatre is. Even fewer people have heard of Applied Improvisation even though companies use it as a tool worldwide - also here in Tampere. Our city has a rich improv scene, in Finnish and in English. So what is this thing called improvisation all about? It’s hard to pin it in one sentence because improv has many practical applications and it is used for many purposes also outside the theatre world. Here’s a short introduction.

- Play, Listen, Accept, Build, Support, Trust, Fail, Commit, Laugh –

These are some of the guidelines for improvising, building a scene or playing a game, on stage in front of a live audience. In improvisational theatre, what is performed is created in the moment. On stage you have no script, story or characters prepared beforehand; you can only count on yourself, your imagination and your team to create something entertaining (and meaningful) while people are watching.

Sound terrifying?

Maybe it does. But not everything in normal life can be planned ahead, and even if it could, it doesn’t mean things will necessarily go as planned. Of course, and luckily, most of the time we don’t have an audience full of strangers watching us while we’re trying to cope with unexpected situations. Nevertheless, we are expected to improvise in our lives, at work, with people, pretty much all the time.

And that’s why the skills required for improvisational performances are incredibly useful outside of the context of performing arts.

Incorporating the guidelines of improvisation into life outside the theatre is called “Applied Improvisation” (AI) and is already taught worldwide. Individuals, as well as teams of any size and purpose, can benefit from applying the theories of improv to their work. In this case improv is not done for comedic value but to learn about reacting, being focused and present in the moment. Through an AI-workshop it is possible to enhance areas like teamwork, communication, participative leadership, managing change, and stress & burnout avoidance in a company. Especially companies that are growing and changing, or rely on adaptability and creativity of their workers in general (and isn’t there an increasing number of these?) could benefit a lot from AI-workshops and practices.

Think you’re not creative/brave/smart/funny/social/young enough for doing it?

You might be surprised.

I have been doing improv as a hobby for a couple of years, currently in English at The improvAcademy. I don’t have any background in acting but that is, especially at first, irrelevant. Improv as a hobby is all about supporting and trusting the group you’re in. It is about accepting and listening, committing to your choices, and making things interesting. Most importantly, it’s about having fun, playing, laughing - and understanding that failing can be the best way to learn (and not caring about it too much, that’s life, sometimes you fail no matter what). I can’t think of any other hobby where I could learn how to listen better, support others, accept my own ideas, build off other’s ideas, trust my team - and have fun with all of this. Oh, and in case I didn’t mention, it’s a great way to meet people, network and make new friends.

Four ways of doing improv!

Like I mentioned earlier, Tampere has lot to offer when it comes to improv. You can go watch a show in a bar or a theatre, you can start improv as a hobby or you can use it as a tool for yourself or your company. Here I present four different ways you can include improv in your life.

1. Watch – Go to an improv show

There are many options to see improv in English in Tampere already. For example every Thursday there is an improv/stand up show at the O’Connell’s Irish Bar (Rautatienkatu 24). The most known English improv group in Tampere is JadaJada Improv that also performs at O’C’s once a month. Additionally, this summer there will be The Finland International Improv Festival (FiiF) held for the fifth time. This festival brings to Tampere great international improv shows and performers of 17 different nationalities. The Finnish improv scene in Tampere is rich too, with groups like Tampereen Improvisaatioteatteri Snorkkeli, Improvisaatioryhmä Korkeapaine, and Improvisaatioryhmä Helmikana, among others.

2. Learn & perform – Improvisation as a hobby

In Tampere you can learn improv in English at The improvAcademy. There are courses for everyone from beginners to advanced improvisers and performers. During FIIF there are great workshops offered by local and internatinal teachers. At least Snorkkeli and Tampereen Työväenopisto (The Education Center of Tampere) have improv courses in Finnish.

Already done some improv? Think you’re ready for the stage? Contact the local improv groups and see if they are looking for new members. The improvAcademy helds auditions for it’s own Ensemble and House Team once or twice a year.

3. Learn & use it as a tool – Applied Improvisation

Applied Improvisation is taught in Tampere in English at least by The improvAcademy. There are several options for workshops to choose from they can be adjusted, combined and customized to fit personal or the company’s needs. For more information, check out their website!

4. Live your life – It can be as simple as that

The improv guidelines also make a great philosophy for life itself. Not everything in our well-organized adult lives needs to be so serious all the time. Why not give yourself a break and play a little? It’s fun!

Want to know more about improv? Here are some useful links for you:

Improv in English in Tampere

Applied Improvisation

Finnish Improv Groups in Tampere

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