Celebrity TheatreSports is back again this year at the Enmore Theatre. This year’s comedy fodder include an incredibly diverse range of Australian stars from Houso’s, Star Wars, The X-Files and the even the director of the Australian National Indigenous Opera. They’ve all come together to raise money for the new Indigenous TheatreSports Youth Fund which is starting with free workshops at the Redfern Community Center this year with hopes to take the program regionally if they can get enough of our support. Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing some of the supporting players at Celebrity TheatreSports 2016, Jon Williams and Cale Bain who are using their talents as improvisers to support the cast of celebrities as they raise money for the a wonderful cause .
What is it about TheatreSports that’s drawn you in and made it such a lifelong experience?
Cale: It’s just really fun…silly.. you get to make up ridiculous stuff with someone else and the buzz you get when your working with someone else to produce something neither of you knew existed is just unparalleled.
Jon: I originally found out about it when I started at Sydney University in 1993. I hadn’t had much drama or theatre experience in school and the ability to come up with theatre and comedy on the spot and making people laugh was massively intoxicating for me, I fell in love with risky environment and it gave me the confidence to not be afraid of failure. Since then I’ve been doing it nonstop. One of the best things about theatre sports is that it’s equally enjoyable whether it goes well or fails dismally.
How do you guide and assist your celebrities calming them down before they throw themselves naked before an audience who are expecting hilarity?
Jon: Everybody knows it’s been made up on the spot; nobody wants it to be perfect you always want those moments where scenes go totally wrong. Or gibberish comes out of the performers mouths. The reason I love it so much is that it’s totally about the audience. They come up with the scenes and you’re changing in the moment to make sure you’re giving them what they like. Every team is made up of two champion improvisers, who have either won state competitions, nationals or the Cranston cup and they’ll be fully supporting the guests. So they’re in good hands.
Cale: Why would I calm them down? I love the nervous energy that people bring to their performances, that’s where the fun comes into play, if they’re nervous that’s when they really throw themselves in there, it’s the anxiety that produces such unexpected and hilarious results. It’s about being comfortable with your own idea’s and not being afraid to put yourself out there. Some people have really great idea’s and some people have… good idea’s. It’s about minimising people censoring themselves or thinking that they need to be funny and just trusting each other.
TheatreSports has been gaining traction in Australia over the past decade and a half, especially though the work that Impro Australia has been doing in High Schools. This year’s fundraiser is aimed at bringing TheatreSports to indigenous communities and disadvantaged young people in isolated areas. Why do you think TheatreSports is such an important program?
Jon: The workshops we run gain a life of their own and you see kids who start off in year seven and follow through to the end of school, completely transformed in confidence, that’s really amazing to see. We’re hoping if we can get the funds we can take it out regionally to places that don’t normally see that kind of performance and give them free workshops. Most of the time all it takes is one teacher who is passionate about the program and is willing to take the time to teach it and from there students who graduate will go on to teach the younger generations and inspire them. It’s crucial in that there isn’t much in Australian High schools in terms of Drama culture, these workshops and exercises fill that gap perfectly. It doesn’t require any costumes or scripts or musical ability, it can be done anywhere and kids flock to it. It’s great for kids who might have dyslexia or other learning difficulties; it gives them an opportunity to be considered as smart or gifted outside of the conventional education framework. It celebrates teamwork and living in the moment.
Cale: It’s about teaching kids how to listen, to work in a team to achieve something that’s greater than any individual performer. When you break it down into the skills that it actually requires you begin to see how it helps in developing social skills and learning to trust themselves and their choices on stage.
Having participated in Celebrity TheatreSports on many occasions you’ve seen a slew of famous faces and personalities try their luck and skills in the crucible of improvised performance. Are there any scenes, characters or moments that are burned into your mind for eternity?
Jon: There was one where Kirk Pengilly was offstage and wandered all the way up on stage during a scene he wasn’t in and started playing the keyboard because he had an idea. His wife was in the scene and he walked up and started playing the Jaws theme on the keyboard. We got Tom Kennelly the Australian author who would come up and read excerpts from his book which we would try and act out on stage. There are to many to count really.
Cale: The time that Gabby Milgate got completely naked on stage in front of the entire Enmore theatre, that stands out… We had a fan rush the stage and try and make out with Scott Major from Neighbours which was pretty fun. He was quite receptive to that actually.
Get down to the Seymour Centre on Saturday Night to be part of the action and witness hilarity as a crew of celebrities and improvisers throw themselves on stage with no scripts and nowhere to hide. It’s going to be a brilliant night of improvised comedy for the best possible cause. Don’t miss it.
Oliver Rynn – Theatre Now & Talking Arts