After my 201 class, I wanted badly to be on stage.
The stage was a mythical space where all the attention was on you, and your every witticism was rewarded by laughter. (I’ve since found out that neither are true.)
In my mind, to get on stage, I needed to get on an improv team. And I wanted so badly to be on stage.
At that point (circa early 2015), there were only a few teams that were performing.
I wasn’t sure what my strengths were, or if I were compatible with any of them, I just wanted to be on a team, any team.
I went for jams, watched many shows and inserted myself into improv-related activities (Hello, story-acting for kids at the library).
Despite all my efforts, no one asked me to join their team.
I watched as my other classmates and seniors get hand picked for teams.
Part of me was happy for them. “Yay! I’m so excited that they’re performing.”
Another part was envious. “I wish I was picked for a team too.”
And another part was sad and defeatist. “Of course they’re picked for teams. They’re more skilled, talented and committed to their characters. Unlike me. No wonder no one wants me on their team.”
Many days, the negative voice was loudest.
Despite the negative voice that nagged me, I still loved improv. So I watched shows (not that there were many then) and cheered the lucky classmates on.
How I got onto my first improv team
One day, things changed.
There was an audition for a soon-to-be-formed musical improv team (Hi, Les Musicables.) Since I like to sing (and I badly wanted to be on a team), I went for the audition.
I went despite
- having no “real” musical training
- thinking I wasn’t good enough.
- not knowing my chances.
- knowing the possibility of failing and being disappointed.
After the auditions, I was part of the team. (Phew!)
And the truth is, getting into a team is just the start. The skills you need to be able to stick around an improv team deserves its own post.
But I’d like to think that getting onto the team fast-tracked my improv career.
Since being on the team, I had
- performed at The Arts House.
- joined an ad hoc group and performed at the Manila Improv Festival 2015 (#whaleballet)
- joined my second improv team The Modern Schemers (these were the people I first saw doing improv so it was an OMGWTFBBQ moment)
- created other improv goodness (see improvcalendar.com and pptkaraoke.space)
Nowadays in Singapore, there are more than 10 teams in the scene, with some performing more frequently than others.
Your chances of making it into a team are higher than mine–but unfortunately, you also have more competition
If you’re a newbie in improv and looking to join a team, here are some tips for you.
1. Support other teams
If you’re not on a team yet, now is a good time to support other teams by watching their shows.
(You’ll be busier when you’re performing but that’s not an excuse for not supporting other people.)
Have a team that you want to join? Even more reasons to watch them so you’ll be top of mind for them.
2. Broaden your scope
When you graduate from your 201 or 301 class, your improv scope might be limited to the styles which you’ve learned in class.
Watch improv shows so you get a feel for different improv styles around.
You might feel that some styles are more suited to your taste and you can set improv goals in that direction.
Consume other forms of media and see how you can turn that into your own particular improv genre.
3. Keep improving yourself
The end of your 201 or 301 class isn’t the end of your improv journey.
Go for jams or workshops and polish your skills. Watch improv shows and analyse the players’ moves so you can use their skills in your future practices.
Of course, the best place to get information of improv shows and workshops in Singapore is improvcalendar.com. (PS, I run the site. I’ll be really happy to add your shows to the line-up.)
4. Set up your own team
The fastest way to be in an improv team is to set up your own improv team.
If your goal is to perform, find other people who want to do the same and set up your own group.
Practice together and see if you like to play with each other. Use all the opportunities you can to perform, for example, Ad Hoc Improv Shows organises shows for players. Get in touch to set up your own show or be paired with others.
If you’re starting a team with fresh players, it’s advisable to hire a coach or an outside eye to give pointers during practices.
You can ask your former coach or other experienced players if they’re interested in coaching. My advice is to compensate them for their experience and time.
5. Don’t compare yourself to others
This is the most important tip.
So your improv classmate or teammate was recruited to join an established team.
It is ok.
Just because a team doesn’t recruit you doesn’t mean others won’t.
Plus, not all teams stay united forever. In the case of a team break up, you’ll have to go through the whole process again.
Keep being a supportive audience member. Do more of the above so you can get to a better place.
Be so good they can’t ignore you. Then you’ll be able to be the picky one when people are clamouring for you to join their team.
*Updated in November 2019 with mention of Ad Hoc Improv Shows.
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