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Lost the plot? Just improvise!

Troupes from Hong Kong, Boston, Beijing due in Seoul for International Improv Festival


Troupes from Beijing, Boston and Hong Kong are set to descend on Seoul for a weekend of improv.

After four years in action Seoul City Improv is looking to step things up a notch with the first International Improv Festival, starting this Friday.

SCI performs improvised theater mostly in Seoul, but in recent years has branched out to other cities and countries including China, Japan and Taiwan.

“All of our international experiences were just phenomenal,” said festival organizer Mark X Guinn. “Through watching other troupes perform, collaborating with other performers in mixed-troupe shows, and being in front of audiences with completely different cultural backgrounds, I think we have both grown as performers and learned more about improvisational theatre as a multicultural art form.”
The Seoul City Improv troupe (SCI)
The Seoul City Improv troupe (SCI)

While performing at the Tokyo Impro Festival in Japan, the organizers there asked if Seoul was planning on holding a festival. Guinn says that their experience in Japan was so good they would put on a festival in Seoul.

Since then the troupe has travelled to other international festivals in search of more inspiration.

They also got to work with troupes from other countries, including Boston Improv from the United States, and invited them to join the Seoul festival.

“We didn’t have to do much persuading to get them to come,” said Guinn “All of our visiting performers share a love of traveling to perform improv in other countries.

“We want to show our audience other styles of improv from different cultural and linguistic viewpoints while also showing out guests what Seoul has to offer.”

With help from Improv Boston, Beijing’s Bilingual Improv Group and the People’s Liberation Improv from Hong Kong, the festival will run shows on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The festival will also showcase SCI’s Korean troupe.

Friday’s performance will offer a taster, offering “Whose Line is it Anyway?” ― style games and improvised plays ahead of a competition on Sunday afternoon.

Saturday’s show will explore languages, and SCI promises performances in Spanish, English, Chinese and Korean.

Guinn sees having so many languages involved, as more of a blessing than a challenge.

“There is a lot more to improvisational theater than its linguistic component,” he said.

“Using the full performance space, making strong character choices with your actions, and using pantomime to create an environment that your characters interact in are some of the most important aspects of this performance style.”

He added that foreign language performances could be very stimulating.

“I can usually follow what is happening in scenes without knowing what the performers are verbally communicating,” he said. “I have met many bilingual performers who say that performing in multiple languages is both a great way to learn a language and to explore cultural ideas that are reflected in those languages. They strongly recommend using it both as a creative outlet as well as a learning experience.”

In addition to the performances, there will also be improv workshops on Saturday and Sunday by Will Luera, the artistic director of Improv Boston. They are open to anyone interested in improv or acting.Those interested should contact seoulimprov@gmail.com.

The International Improv Festival is at Spazio Luce in Itaewon. Entrance is 15,000 won and tickets are not sold in advance. Show times are Friday 8-11 p.m., Saturday 8-11 p.m. and Sunday 4-7 p.m.

More information is available at www.seoulcityimprov.com.

By Paul Kerry (paulkerry@heraldcorp.com)
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