DRY AIR DUO: Robin Hitchcock and Sipumziwe Lucwaba of improv duo Air Dry will be at the Mama City Improv Festival.

Eva Gilliam is at the helm of the new Mama City Improv Festival, which will feature both local and imported improvisation gurus in a season of theatrical fun. She talks about the event.

What is it, and where will it run?

The Mama City Improv Festival is a five-day immersion in (theatre) improvisation, with workshops all day and performances all night. International pros are coming from Canada to teach and perform, bringing their experience from The Second City, Toronto, and over a decade of performing globally. Local teachers and troupes from Cape Town and Stellenbosch will also be teaching and performing.

The festival was conceived by The Long Shots Improv Troupe in their yearning to grow SA’s improv scene and to attract audiences to comedy in such a degree that life will never be the same again!

And what is your role in this?

I am the Festival Producer, and a performer with The Long Shots Improvised Comedy Troupe.

Who is on the bill?

SHOWS: Canadian TrioProv The Lusty Mannequins & Friends, The Long Shots (CPT), Improguise (CPT), Chocolate Sunday Blues (Stellenbosch), Mad Horse (CPT), Air Dry (CPT/ USA), and a new group in Cape Town, The Coffee Breaks.

Workshops are Ashley Comeau, Connor Thompson, (Canada), Robin Hitchcock (USA), Jason Delplanque (RSA), Tandi Buchan (RSA), Burgert Kirsten (RSA), Rob Coutts (RSA) and Sipumziwe Lucwaba (RSA).

Apart from the programme performances, members of the public can sign up for workshops – even if they have no improv experience, but are keen. Is this correct?

One of the big draws of the festival is the workshops, because there are so few outlets for learning improv in SA, and being able to take it to the next level is very exciting! Many advanced improvisers in SA have travelled to Chicago or New York to take workshops, but now we’re bringing those here! Much more practical than a ticket overseas.

The festival has classes from beginner to advanced, with three different “Intro to Improv” classes for curious newbies eager to jump in. Other classes range from character exploration, short form intensive, long form introduction and a deeper long form improv intensive, and even taking your improv to sketch writing!

Is there a connection between this festival and Improguise, the people behind Theatresports and various other improv sessions in Cape Town?

Improguise will be one of the mainstage performing troupes from Cape Town, and we’re super excited they’ll be with us! Also, Tandi Buchan, their Artistic Director will be teaching a workshop that looks at intimacy in improv (an essential element of what makes improv relatable!) – with a class performance that evening as part of the festival. You should take it!

Why do you think audiences respond so well to improv – it seems to be a steadily-growing genre?

I’ve been doing improv since 1993, and I’ve seen it grow exponentially in the last 10 years. I think what makes it so attractive and more-ish is that anyone can do it – you don’t have to be an actor. I know software engineers and journalists who are brilliant at it and have kept their day jobs.

But more than that it’s pretty mind-blowing to see a group of people take a one word suggestion from the audience and create a 20-minute play, or goof around with games that bring out witty and clever interpretations of some of our most mundane experiences as humans.

There is a unique humour to seeing something you relate to on stage – and when it’s spontaneously created? That adds another level of excitement.

What was the last live show you saw, and how did you find it?

I went to see Diva Night with Nombasa, Msaki and Asanda Mqiki at the Cape Town Fringe Festival – brilliant! Gorgeous voices, and lots of sass! Asanda Mqiki sang an entire song scatting – no lyrics – but her intention and her delivery were full-on entertaining and engaging. Excellent vibe.

What do you like to do to relax?

Relax? Hmmm, with the festival coming I’m out of the relaxation loop at the moment. But if my memory serves me correctly, a hike on the mountain is one of my favourites. And a looooong hot bath.

Can you tell us something about yourself that most people would not know or suspect?

I was once the lead singer in a band at the South Pole called Fanny Pack and the Big Nancy Boys. I was working there as a carpenter for a season in my mid-20s and we had some musical geniuses on the ice with us.

We covered Fleetwood Mac and a punk incarnation of The Carpenters “On Top of the World”, and I was on top of the world, if you look at it from a different perspective.

l The Mama City Improv Festival will be at the Armchair Theatre and the Theatre Arts Admin Collective in Observatory from October 20 to 24. Book: www.quicket.co.za