It could have been a disastrous afternoon.
I was going to be teaching the very first PythonProv workshop at the iO Chicago, at the intersection of Monty Python and improvisation. I’m sure I was more nervous than my students. After all, how do you teach someone to improvise in the style of Monty Python?
I had a few reasons for optimism. If you can improvise Shakespeare, surely you can improvise Monty Python, and Improvised Shakespeare is one of the iO’s most successful shows. And, all modesty aside, I don’t know anyone who knows more about Monty Python and improvisation. (The glorious results of a misspent youth.)
But then, even the Pythons don’t improvise. They are meticulous writers, but the only improvisation they do is in the writing room.
So I had to wonder if I had bitten off more than I could chew, promising these students I could teach them how to improvise in the style of Monty Python.
And as I headed to the theatre this morning, I further realized that these students were part of the iO’s annual summer intensive, so I would be facing students from all across the country who had never improvised together before.
But when they started to arrive, I realized that I was wrong. True, they had never improvised together. But they were not from around the country. They were from around the world. So in addition to students from Pittsburgh and San Diego and Savannah, there were also students from England and Norway and Australia and Scotland. One of my students helped start the first improv group in Bulgaria!
But then we got down to it. It reminded me of one of my early classes with my pal Del Close. Del didn’t always know how things were going to work, but with the Baron’s Barracudas and his other students as his lab rats, he managed to figure it out. And, more often than not, he was right.
This time, I had a whole group of international lab rats to help me find our way through the process. We didn’t succeed with every scene, but more often than not, we managed to figure it out and learn how to keep improving. Even the students who weren’t as familiar with Monty Python were happy with the techniques they learned that could be applied to their more mainstream improvisation.
And by the end of the three hours, they were doing some excellent work, and I was starting to see the pathway to developing real PythonProv for performance.
And so, PythonProv is a thing, and not a disaster. Keep watching for more–I’ll be scheduling some full-length 8-week classes soon with the iO Chicago.
This is the beginning.