Two weeks ago MIssImp had the great fortune to spend time in workshops and show with the legendary Susan Messing, What fun. Lots of people have things to say about her, and the improv we did with her. This is the first of a couple of posts about our thoughts.
If ever we needed proof that Nottingham’s improv scene is growing, this last week can prove it. From Monday to Wednesday, MissImp played host to Susan Messing, one of the most well known members of the improv community worldwide.
Running two workshops at the start of the week on Specificity and Joy; Susan, in her patented blend of wisdom and filth talked about the richness that detail and clarity can add to a scene in the first of her workshops and in the sheer importance of having fun in her second. Drilling the mantra “If I’m not having fun, I’m the asshole” into our heads.
As well as the two public workshops which attracted improvisers from London, Cardiff and Birmingham; Susan also ran an afternoon workshop for Missimp’s main players. The whole visit was capped off with a show on Wednesday night which featured MissImp’s Fisticuffs and the UK’s premier Sci Fi improv, Project 2, before Susan took to the stage, performing her eponymous show ‘Messing with a Friend.” (★★★★ Chicago Reader) with our very own Lloydie. A week of incredible improv.
Two great things happened on stage last Wednesday; both were down to Susan Messing.
The first thing didn’t involve her being on stage and it was so pleasing and incredibly impressive. Whenever we have had a guest trainer come to us we have noticed a difference in what we do. Sometimes it’s a subtle one. Mostly it takes us a few weeks or even a couple of months to really integrate that element into our performances. Last Wednesday was different.
Susan did a lot of group work with us and emphasised how you can play multiple “games of the scene” and how matching the existing energy can be really effective. When Fisticuffs perform we usually have a form in mind. We deliberately didn’t do that in this particular performance. We trusted that our scenes would be enough and that we would work together as a group to make whatever we did fun for us and the audience. The group scenes we did were some of the best we’ve ever done. We’ve certainly never done so many consistently good group scenes in one performance piece. It was really exciting to be on stage during those moments, lovely to get the audience feedback on them and the notes Susan gave us after the performance reflected how well they had gone too.
We have never had a teacher come in, work with us and get such tangible, noticeable results so fast. I never anticipated this would be an outcome from the visit.
The second great thing was Susan performed. I got to join her in this but I’m under no illusions who the star of the show was. Her ability to notice what’s happening on stage is incredible. Whilst she made me look way better than I actually am, I was very aware of what was happening. I did things and she not only made sense of them but used them as inspiration during the scene. Susan notices things so many of us never consider when we are in a scene. Performing with her wasn’t just an honour, but it was an education.
I’m an unapologetic flag waver for long-form improv within MissImp. I believe when it is done well, it is richer, more surprising and more engaging than other types of improv – and it’s funnier too. To have me preaching that is one thing, but Wednesday’s show was an illustration that when it’s good it’s really fantastic. I’m so glad Susan taught us how good we all have the potential to be and inspired us by showing us how great she is too.