by Tom Young
Welcome to the BIP's Autumn Gathering 2023! Thank you for joining us once again (or possibly for the first time) for another fantastic weekend of community, learning, and — of course — improv.
Once again, I'm delighted to be able to offer such a varied workshop programme, with some new teachers joining the stalwarts. This should help to keep our programme fresh, and present new perspectives on this art-form we all love so much.
Having raised our attendee-cap to 90, this means we're offering six different workshop options throughout the weekend, so there's plenty to choose from.
Once again, our jams will be 90-minute sessions during the workshop programme. Each led/MC'd by experienced improvisers, we hope they'll give people a chance to perform on a smaller scale, offering more stage time per person with less pressure to do the perfect scene in your one opportunity on stage.
Hopefully these will give everyone a chance to show off what they can do, in a supportive, positive atmosphere.
As previous attendees will know, on Saturday afternoon we have a group discussion on a subject related to the improv world, in a bid to share ideas, advice and experience with the group. At the last few events, we addressed topics such as Assembling Your Team and Running A Troupe. This time, the topic will be Balancing Acts: Promoting Gender Equality in Improv, hosted by Jennifer Bagnall. Join us as we delve into the gender gap in improv comedy, discuss the challenges those who identify as women face and how we can make a difference both as peers and allies.
As always, there will be evening entertainment on Friday and Saturday! Our list of attendees happens to include some of the UK's best improvisers, and we've asked them to show us their wares for an evening.
One of our acts will be The Teachers! We'll be asking them to perform together, show off their skills, and provide your entertainment for the Friday evening, giving you a flavour of what you might expect from their workshops.
We'll also be featuring performances from Joined at the Quip, Canny Funny, Stephen Longstaffe, Barnish & Carmichael, Improv On Demand, SomerSand and the Battle of the Superteams, featuring players from Stürike!, Young + Butcher, Leamprov and Just Ad Hoc.
For those in the audience, please look to be supportive and welcoming of the performers — this may involve a slight moderation of your drinking, at least until after the show (i.e. please don't think “I'm not performing tonight, so I'm just going to get hammered and shout things out”). I don't expect this to be a big problem as everyone's very nice, but I'd just ask that you treat the performers on stage as you would want to be treated!
At these events, we try to ensure that the programme always has something suitable for any level of improviser. To make this clear, we've graded each workshop with an experience level.
- LEVEL 1 These workshops are intended for newcomers (to improv or to BIP) or those wishing to refresh themselves after a break. At this particular event, there are three level 1 workshops: “Warm Up For the Weekend”, for anyone who wishes to ease in to BIP in an especially welcoming environment, “Intro to Game”, which teaches the concept of ‘game of the scene’, and “Intro to Scenework”, to learn how to build scenes beyond making things up or playing structured short-form games.
- LEVEL 2 These workshops are suitable for everyone. You've probably been attending a regular workshop for 6–18 months. They should provide key skills or techniques useful to any improviser.
- LEVEL 3 These workshops are intended for more seasoned improvisers, with the subject matter a little more niche, or a higher level of experience required. They should add something specific to your improv arsenal, and are a chance to work with other experienced improvisers.
If you're unsure about what level you are, consult with Tom, Geoff, or that specific workshop's teacher about whether it'll be right for you. We've also decided to repeat most of the workshops at a second level, so be sure to attend the one best suited to you — this is not just for your benefit, but for the others in the group as well.