Audience participation has become a staple of live performance. At concerts, crowds are encouraged to sing along; At clubs, anyone in the front row could become part of a comedian’s bit.
But there was a time not too long ago, when that wasn’t the case. Shows were designed to be viewed by the audience, not generated with them. Even that word ‘show,’ expresses an old school perspective on performance. That the audience member should sit there passively, while the performer dictates their environment.
Gradually, that idea was replaced with a new phrase for a new school of thought. ‘Experience.’ For a performance to be an experience it must transcend ‘for the people’ and instead be ‘with the people.’ For a performance to be an experience those on stage must leave behind control. And in doing so, find the courage to continue without it.
I feel blessed to have gotten to know, and to talk with, two truly courageous performers: Renny Temple and Caren Kaye.
Improv was in its infancy when War Babies started. Viola Spolin had designed a series of games for actors, and Renny and Caren were hooked.
After Spolin’s workshop, Renny and Caren continued the games with soon to be War Babies. It wasn’t long before someone suggested taking the ideas to the stage. In part one of the podcast, we talk about the origins of War Babies and improv, as well as the rules to great improvisation.
Extending the themes of improv to wellness is an emphasis in their class. Keeping true to Caren’s Psychology background, we discuss overcoming fear as performers, and what stuck with me from my four weeks with Improv for Life.
Renny talks about playing the title role in The Life and Times of Eddie Roberts, then Caren tells stories about her Johnny Carson appearance, My Tutor, and Jane Fonda.
Listening to Renny Temple and Caren Kaye is an experience in the true performative sense of the word. While editing this episode, I found myself laughing to jokes I knew were coming, and surprising myself with subtleties I had missed. Part two comes out at the end of next week.
Off-Script with Liam Gibler can be found on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and wherever else you like to listen or download them.