Improvising at Family Day
When Olivia Fales, academic programs assistant at the Hammer, asked me for leads on Improv Artists for an upcoming Family Day, I blurted “ME, my team!” There was no hesitation, no thinking twice. The default for good improvisers is “yes, and.” A Museum Educator for ten years and improviser for four, I have long wished for a way to blend my two loves but didn’t quite know how. Being on a team with the best group of players imaginable, I knew it would be not only be possible—but fun—to tackle.
My improv team, The Audience, was put together in a One Direction-like fashion nearly two years ago. As individual performers, we were drafted into a mighty superteam by the Westside Comedy Theater in Santa Monica, where we now perform on the first and third Monday of every month. Since then, we've grown to work well together and help each other both on and off stage (like when they pulled me out of the Marina when I accidentally fell in last month). They are some of the smartest, funniest, kindest people I know, and I thought if anyone could thrive in this new challenge, it would be them.
And so an abbreviated version of the team—which we call The Aud or Dience—featuring David Malki, Rachel Parker, Ami Safarti, and me, set about blending improv with looking at works of art in the Perfect Likeness exhibition, and doing so in a way that was fun for a multi-generational audience. Luckily, the works in Perfect Likeness are intriguing and accessible, the people featured could immediately inspire characters, and the scenes in the photographs could easily be the settings of improv scenes. In improv, we typically have to invent the setting, characters, and relationships out of thin air. Here, the nature of the pieces gave us an intriguing new way in.
I found myself wearing my Museum Educator and Improviser hats in equal measure, constantly advocating for ways that we could use the art to inspire scenes, while also creating opportunities for participants to look closer. My Improviser self wants visitors to leave having had a fun and refreshing time, and my Museum Educator self wants them to have a memorable experience with works of art. I hope that both will happen!
So we adapted some classic Improv games like “101,” “Blind Line,” and “Dr. Know-it-All,” and created our own, which we call “Portraits” and “Sculptures.” For all of these, we create spontaneous scenes based on audience suggestions and participation, and each incorporates the art on view in some way. We tried these games out with a group of kids ranging in ages 4-10, and got what could only be the highest compliment from an 8-year-old: “that was really, really, really fun.”