AThis post is a continuation of the amazing experiences you share to my improvising outside of your mother tongue post. I will make a summary of the stories you shared, this time focusing on the theme “Lessons”.
Disclaimer: I already announced that I would publish these experiences and asked most of you for permission. But, please, if you feel you want me to take any part of this down or change your name at any point, just tell me. I appreciate how much you trusted us by sharing this, and I don’t want to break that trust by any mean.
“Every language gives me something different.”
Tamara shared with us her experiences improvising as a polyglot. “I have improvised in three different languages: Dutch (my mother tongue), English and Swedish. And all of them give me something different. Different characters, different inspirations, different speed.”
“It’s not only your vocabulary, but it’s also the associations you have with that language and the things you’ve experienced while using that language. Dutch makes me access to different memories than English or Swedish do. And so I am inspired by those memories and experiences when playing in that language.”
I have never improvised in my mother tongue, but I want to see how it affects my performance. Using a second language distances myself from my memories, and I wonder how will Spanish affect my narrative choices and inspiration. I am looking forward to try it one day!
“If I play with natives, I always end up having to adapt to their pace.”
“I go straight to the point and I connect more with my partner/s on stage by looking to their eyes more, and I pay more attention to physicality and object work” is how Peña describes experiences with good scene partners. For him, playing with non-native speakers in English feels easier.
“If I play with natives, I always end up having to adapt to their pace. I often have to remind them that I won’t be able to follow if they don’t adapt”. I agree. Recently, I have realized that I find it easier to improvise with non-natives.
Performers who learn improvisation in their English-speaking home country may rely on techniques and tricks they used before, even when they play with an international cast. It can be anything, maybe cultural references, accents or common tropes. I don’t observe this as often when they learned improvisation in an international group.
“Made me start asking students when I teach in English what they ’observed’ about a scene.”
Jill teaches a class in Spanish even if her domain of the language is far from perfect. When asking for feedback, “observar” was the closest translation she found. People gave insightful observations, while asking for feedback brings more judgments or feelings. Now, she asks her English students what they have “observed” too. It has been such a change on the notes her students share now!
Just take a moment to think about how richer our community would be with more people like Jill. Imagine all the ways we could improve our teachings by embracing other cultures and languages!
“Hashtash… Or did you mean…? Oh, sure, Hashtash.”
I had an entire jam show whose plot came from my inability to pronounce Hashtag. I don’t know why, but that day I, unintentionally, mispronounce it as hashtash twice in a row. The audience heard it. And my scene partners honored it.
I have mixed feelings with capitalizing on someone’s struggle but, at that moment, I played along and followed the fun. If it wasn’t jam, I would have talked with my cast about it after the show.
Tip: Improvisation involves addressing what is happening on stage, even if it is someone struggling with the language. You can either help them or use the mistake as a gift. But take your partner into consideration. When pulling a move like this, pay extra attention to your partner’s body language to understand if they are comfortable with the situation. Sometimes we don’t want to make a show about something we are ashamed of, and respecting that from your partner is more important that any Yes, and.
“I taught a workshop where on participant had just the barest amount of English and he had a great time.”
Órla shared her experience in teaching workshops. In one of those workshops, a member could barely speak a phrase in English. The assembly took such amazing care of them! It is so important to make everyone feel welcomed and included.
Orla’s tip: When preparing a workshop, don’t cram it! This way you can make adjustments depending on the group energy, or on people’s command of English.
What about you?
I am sure you have plenty of experiences as enlightening as the ones from this post. Have you ever improvised in another language? Have you performed with an international cast? Do you tour teaching workshops to other countries?
I would love to hear your stories! The last post sparked so many genuine conversations, that sadly, only people from the Facebook group could enjoy them! I will be active on the comment section down below if you are interested on improvising outside of your mother tongue. If you want someone to talk to without sharing it with everyone, you can also find my email at the bottom of this page.
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