Poe-filled fun goodtimes

My big improv project this year, the most “me” show I’ve done in a while, have been devising and directing a Edgar Allan Poe-themed narrative improv show in the 2020 Fringe Festival.  I was finally brave enough to put my own actual hand-drawn art on a poster, and even made some show merch using the image.

Poe’d has now been performed in a proper theatre with fancy lights and everything over four nights – mostly we’re a group that performs in casual bar spaces.  The show was a single story told from the perspective of a narrator and unrolled over an hour.  It starts with poetry from each of the performers, all inspired by words from the audience.  This in turn was the inspiration for the night’s story, which twisted into all the darkest and silliest of drama.  After training together for a week of Sundays, we finally got to dress up and take it to the stage.  So much fun, and terrifying at the same time.

I was helped by a whole crew of my favourite improvisors from The Wellington Improvisation Troupe, who cheerfully mucked in with everything from making costumes through lights and music and of course so so much Dramatic Acting.  To a non-improvisor it might look as if the narrator-character was in charge and directing the story, while in reality this sort of show is a delightful back and forth between all the performers, building something from nothing.

The reviewers were kind, Theatreview thought it wasMACABRE MADE MISCHIEVOUS”  While Artmurmurs’ reviewer saidI had a lovely time which warmed every cockle of my withered ol’ heart.

My husband and I (I say that in a queenly voice, ‘natch) did a short two-person version of the show as a warmup (at monthly improv show Late Night Knife Fight), billing ourselves as The Ravening.  Poe’d feels like something that might work well as an improv festival show (training it and casting it from the workshop), if we decide to do another grande tour some day.

Poe show badges Two hooded figures holding a prop raven

Cast of Poe'd

Photo by Ben Zolno

Nicest time of the year?

One of my favourite events as an improvisor and as a photographer is the annual NZ Improv Festival.   This October I played onstage as the computer in an improvised radio play, and also as and with a huge bunch other characters over the week and a bit of delightful workshops and delightful shows.  There was everything from clowning to musicals to Shakespeare and back again.  I even tried Dungeons and Dragons for the first time in one of the (many, many) evening social events.   This year a youth festival was held as part of the main one, which was especially delightful.  There were workshops and shows for the under 10s, and workshops leading to shows by the older kids.

There were three photographers sharing the documenting task, as part of this I shot eight of the shows and gave some new camera gear a darn good workout.  Happy to report that the Sony A7iii, Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 and Sony 35mm f1.8 all worked well in some interestingly tricky lighting conditions.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: not only are improvisors wonderful people, they often have the best most bendy faces you could hope to see.   These are some randomly chosen favourites, there’s a larger selection on Google photos:

 

October in Wellington = NZ Improv Festival!

So, 20-27th October, stop everything else, it’s time for the annual Improv Festival in Wellington.  This year I was one of the volunteer photographers, and also ran a workshop and co-directed a show based on that workshop, took a bunch of other workshops, got on stage, and had a most excellent time catching up with improv friends old and new.  I saw some of my photos from festivals past blown up super large on walls about the town, which is an oddish thing.  Here’s just a sample of some pictures from a wild week.

 

 

Making puppets and making puppets

Another week, another puppet finished – in a little over a week Late Night Puppets will be opening in Wellington, part of the 2018 Fringe Festival.  It’s a playful improvised show, with as the title suggests, a few puppets in it, as well as a bunch of human friends.  Most of the puppets found me through ebay, but a few, five or six if I keep sewing, will be puppets I’ve made.

Here’s Cinnamon or Caramel or Ginger (he/she goes by various names), whose arms were stitched on just in time for today’s training session.  cinamin2

The eyes are from a $1 toy found in a charity shop, with added doll eyes replacing the original black spots.  I felt vaguely guilty about cutting up a creature just for the eyes, so also reused the fabric horns, and made a blue and pink tongue out of one of the original legs.

In pieces on Friday

puppetprocess

 

 

 

After the festival is over . . .

Last week was a wonderful hectic roller-coaster of improv theatre. The New Zealand Improv Festival, 2015 edition.  It was sometimes stirring, startling, heart-string tugging, occasionally awkward, occasionally camera-shaking hilarious, but most of the time just a really really good time.  If you weren’t there, you missed out forever, since all the unscripted theatre happened just for those us who were there.  Of course.  There were performers from a bunch of countries, workshops run by amazing teachers, a bunch of socialising for the social people.   I was one of the volunteer photographers, snapping my way through 10 or so shows over five days.  I’m coincidentally part way through a photography diploma, and required to photograph a wedding “or the equivalent”  Combing my study with my hobby seemed the perfect plan.  And I did photograph a wedding.  An improv wedding, with a groom sourced from the audience and a just slightly drunken minister.  A wedding, a bunch of train journeys, a podcast, a prison with 50,000 prisoners, a cruise liner and many quite twisted tales.

For the assignment, I had to choose just 10 photos to tell the story of the festival.  They needed to be a mix of candid and formal images, all orientated the same way and cropped to the same dimensions, and either all colour or all black and white.   These were the 10 I chose, with the theme of “moments of connection”, but the choice, it was not easy!

I took around 2,000 photographs using two cameras, which at only 200 per show is quite restrained really.  Most were taken with a Sony 7ii and a Mitakon 50mm f/0.95 lens.  This combination which was lovely and let me take photos in light I would normally be struggling with, but with the downside of a slow and finicky focus, very shallow depth of field, and being tricky to nail just right with moving targets.  Someone near the front of the stage tilting their head a few inches and something that looks good in the viewfinder, is not so sharp full size.  Also,  using a 50mm lens and sitting in the front row meant that I could only catch part of the stage in a scene.  So, I also had my tiny and lovely RX100 iv, set to auto focus and very wide, ready for when action took off on the stage, or I wanted a wider view.

Flies, as used for flyering

Among the masks made for scifi improv show Return to the Planet, a trio of bug-eyed bugs, denizens of Planet Beelzebub.  Dressed up in one of these (with a fetching green velvet medieval gown to complete the ensemble), handing out flyers for the show was surprisingly easy.  A buzz even (ow, don’t hit me).   I was amused as always by the people who pretended not to see me – it takes real determination to ignore a giant fly walking through the central city on a weekday lunchtime.

The mask is made of Instamporph, over a clay sculpt, the eyes are plastic hi-bounce balls, cut in half and lined with kitchen-drawer liner foil.  The paint is acrylic, with texture from those micobeads sold for scrap booking, under a couple of layers of clear acrylic sealer.  Antenna made of instamorph over wire – although I had to go back and thicken them up, as my initial efforts proved a little fragile.

 

Ridiculously festive week

Improv, impro, improvisation: however you say it, spontaneous theatre reached soaring heights and delicious joyful nadirs at the 2013 New Zealand Improv Festival in Wellington.   There were lovely improvisors from around NZ and Australia and beyond, I got to be a “wonderfully wide-eyed” villainous spider demon queen in a Doctor Who adventure.  I sang in a choir that sounded magnificent despite that.   I was duty photographer for some of the shows, and at times it was hard to keep the camera steady due to laughing so much.   And, and, and . . . hope they do it all again next year.