Monday, 26 November 2012

Improvising Theatre

The vibrant theatre culture of Mumbai has been witnessing a steady stream of talented and innovative actors which are bent on changing the old ways. Their penchant for travelling on the path less travelled has resulted in creation of an innovative theatre scene in Mumbai. ‘Improv’ has been the talk of town in recent years. Improv theatre has changed the way we watch and experience theatre by making the audience a part of the action. Discovering Mumbai presents Adam Dow, founder of ‘Improv ComedyMumbai’ (ICM), a group dedicated to pushing the boundaries of Improv theatre and taking it to the masses. Time for some improvisation!
Adam Dow

Adam Dow, who hails from Seattle, US, has been doing improv since the age of eighteen and has grown up performing with Seattle Theatre Sports and Unexpected Productions. “I think I really first started improvising when I was a kid playing with my Dad's old VHS camera”, says Adam. Then he was making small video projects to get extra credits at school. His induction in the School Theatre Sports team was what sparked off his journey of Improv. He also helped start the first college improv group called ‘The Collective’. In 2011, CNN placed him at #9 of people to watch in Mumbai.

Adam moved to Mumbai four years ago to help on a documentary project. Seeing the need for more comedy and entertainment in the city he started improv classes. Through his initial workshops he was able to gather a core group of improvisers. ICM performed their first show in October 2009 and since then they have performed at places like Zenzi Mills, Cafe Brun, Lagerbay and now at the Comedy Store. “India is great! I now have had lots of cool experiences performing with all kinds creative people”, says Adam about his time performing on the improv scene in India. He believes there is still a long way to go in terms of education, the venues and overall knowledge of improvisational theatre in Mumbai and India.

ICM is a collective group of great performers made up of Naveen Kaushik, Mukul Chadda, Dhruv Lohumi, Natascha Chadha, Kaneez Surka, Nigel Rajaratnam, Ankit Challa, Daylynn DeSouza, and Shawn Williams. It is an ensemble of professionals from TV, theatre, movies, call centres, colleges and even IT specialists. ICM is not just limited to performing in Mumbai, to promote improve, it performs across the country. This year ICM has also participated at the International Improv Festival at Amsterdam and in March 2013 they have been invited to participate in the Berlin Improv Festival.

Their performances are making people across the world sit up and take notice. But getting ICM to this stage has been an uphill task. “We had a lot of challenges of getting ICM up and going and are still facing them today”, says Adam. Initially the biggest challenge was to find a venue that would allow them to perform regularly. Creating awareness about improv theatre was also a big challenge for the group. To spread word about ICM they had to network with all of PR and Marketing channels. “Building the educational program while still directing the content so it is always fresh and new has been a big undertaking”, he says. On the personal front, adapting to new languages, customs and commuting have also been the challenges that Adam has faced in India.

Some of my favourite shows have been at Wilson's College, the Amsterdam Improvised Bollywood Show, and all the Lagerbay Shows”, he says. He believes that as an improviser every show is different and if there is a proper venue with a good audience, then the show can be a lot of fun. “Being a new art form spreading in India we have to be ready to perform in all kinds of different venues”, says Adam. The group tries their best to adapt to each venue to keep the show dynamic and fun. Currently their favourite venue is Lagerbay at Waterfield road, Bandra. They will also be performing at the Comedy Store at Phoenix Mills, first Friday of every month.

Through their hard work and brilliant performances ICM has established itself on the theatre scene in the city. So what are Adam’s plans for ICM’s future? “I would love to help develop an Indian Improv TV show, teach more corporate workshops”, he says. He also wants to start a proper college improv tournament, help develop ICM’s training workshop and also do more improv outreach programs with kids and troubled youth. “I have learned recently is that it is important to love yourself and let that love and good vibes reflect back out onto the community and those around you”, says Adam about his learning’s from the journey so far.

Adam adores Mumbai, as it the place where ICM started and it is also the place where innovative ideas like improv can mushroom. “Mumbai is one of the most diverse chilled out cities in all of India. The people here are very down to earth and understanding, it is a hugely populated city and everyone has to work hard to make it, but I don't think I could live anywhere else in India, except maybe Goa”, he says.

If you are interested in participating in the improv scene then Adam has some advice for you, “I would suggest watching lots of shows, taking classes, and performing as much as possible”. And if you are still wondering what improv is all about then catch their shows at Lagerbay on Nov 29th and Dec 13th, and also at the Comedy Store on Dec 7th, or you can watch their videos on ICM’s website – here

You can also follow Improv Comedy Mumbai on Facebook and twitter

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