May 01, 2013

Lessons from Improvisational Theatre

As I continue to enjoy the moments of freedom after Architecture School, I want explore different things that is NOT architecture for sanity’s sake. I was stuck in architecture school for a pretty long time and there were things in my life and in college that I wanted to do. I wanted to explore my cultural identity, workout and try new things. Since my first year of University I have always been fascinated in the performing arts. I attended different plays from different playwrights and troupes in Toronto and I am fascinated how actors  are able to recreate world and immerse an audience into that story setting through crafted dialogue and acting. Whereas designers usually have to convey a story through the construction and manipulation of space and framing the circulation and experience to tell a story. Actors have to convey emotion, tone, mood in order to transport their audience into the world in which their characters live.  It’s that art of communication which transforms and engages, and I feel like architects and designers can learn a thing or two...because when it comes to communication I think it’s something all of us designers and students can learn from and apply to our careers.

Last Friday night I decided to attend an Improvisational Theatre Workshop at the Kapisanan Philippine Centre for Arts and Cultlure, provided by a GTA-based comedy troupe Asiansploitation. This is my second workshop, and I must say I have made some progress from my first workshop a few months ago. Different group activities focused on honing different skills required in Improv Acting - along the lines of communication.

Here are some of my observations when it comes to learning from Improv classes:
You have to communicate verbally and through body language and get a scene rolling. It’s really about tapping into each other’s heads and playing out the scene and putting trust in each other with what you put out into a scenario. Like volleying a ball back and forth, it comes down to being able to work and collaborate well by mutually contributing to the richness of a scene.
It’s easy for us to get busy and occupied with numerous things you have to do at work. Improv classes had a lot of activities focused along the lines of careful listening of what you say, as well as what your fellow actors are saying and playing off of that to keep the momentum going. Attentiveness is key and staying on top of it is crucial. You really have to quickly take in what the others are saying and doing to make the most suitable action in the scene. 
Not only do you have to keep your team of actors engaged with each other while acting out a scenario, you have to also make sure you are keeping the attention of your audience.  This multi-directional approach to communication is interesting because it shows that you have to carefully think of all the different things you have to do at once. I think architecture school will pummel you with work and it’s really about being strategic in tackling all those tasks. You have to be on your feet to be strategic in meeting the needs of all groups you are communicating to and communicating with..
Well for me there was. You have to learn how to be comfortable in your own skin and be confident in what you are doing. You’re putting yourself out there to an audience that may or may not receive you well. In parallel, this is like presenting your studio project out in front of an audience of peers and a jury or practitioners. You have to exude confidence - you can not second guess yourself. 
To be able to act and perform impromptu requires practice and constant banking up on experience. You are accepting and reading feedback and learning. Doing a improve sketch, the actors have to gauge the audience and see how they react, and stay on their feet to keep the audience engaged and tell if they are successfully or not successfully cranking out laughter from the crowd. There’s a lot of experimentation in the moment to grab the audience attention and gauging its effectiveness. Sound familiar? This is quite similar to designers – it’s about constant iteration, receiving feedback, being critical of your work, and revise and improve. The wash, rinse, repeat method is quite parallel between the art of improv and the art of communication, which designers need.
More to the world outside Architecture
Post-Grad Phase: Keep Busy & Persist!
The Search for Halo-Halo and Turon (and somehow architecture was there)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for sharing your experience! It was particularly interesting to read your comparisons between the improv exercises and the challenges of an architect. Hope to see you at the next Comedy Lab :) ~AJL