What is Dingbats?
Dingbats is an improv community on the border of West Sussex and Surrey.
Our aim is to spread the joy of theatrical improv and its benefits throughout the South East. We run fun workshops, we put on excellent shows and we go to see improv elsewhere as a group.
Dingbats workshops started in the summer of 2014 at The Archway Theatre in Horley, Surrey (as ‘Archway Improv’) and they have continued almost every week since. Over the last 4 and a bit years we have put on several shows to showcase the workshop participants’ talents to family, friends and the public. More recently, we have organised trips to go and see some amazing improv to entertain and inspire us. We’ve ventured to London, Brighton and some of that lovely space in between.
Why do improv?
In the same way that people take up martial arts, not to fight crime or avenge their master, but to get fit, improv has endless personal benefits other than teaching you a performance skill. Believe it or not, as well as being a performative art form, improv can improve you. It helps you become more confident, it helps you with communication skills and we believe it can genuinely bring out the best in you.
What is improv?
Improv (improvisational theatre in this case) can be defined as the art of collaboratively creating theatre in the moment.
A group of improvisers take to the stage with no pre-written material
They ask the audience for something (i.e. a word) to inspire the beginning of a scene or game
They use their listening skills, teamwork abilities, creative imagination and theatrical techniques to build interesting and engaging scenes, sketches, songs or stories!
You and the other performer(s) can create anything you want, you can be whoever you want and, as you are making it all up, you can’t get it wrong.
There’s only one golden rule – Yes, And.
Yes – Agree to the idea offered by the other performer(s).
And – Add something on top of that yourself.
Keep "Yes, Anding" and you will collaboratively find out who your characters are to each other, where you are, and what is going on.
Improv skills can be utilised to perform in a variety of styles; the possibilities are endless. At Dingbats we don’t discriminate against any style of improv, they all have their benefits, they attract different audiences and teach us different things about ourselves.
You may have seen ‘Whose Line is it Anyway’ on television. That is short-form. For those of you who haven’t, in a short-form show you will usually see a team of improvisers play a number of different improv games each with their own rules e.g. You perform a scene where you have to break into a rap or change what you say when you hear the buzzer or pull lines out of a hat. It’s usually silly, it’s very fun but it doesn’t forget the core improv skills of listening and building with your scene partner. Audience suggestions fuel the fun throughout.
Usually starting with one suggestion from the audience, long-form has no set rules like short-form. The improvisers must Yes And to build the scene together and discover characters and patterns which make the scene interesting, engaging (and possibly funny). It can be very engaging to watch and even more enjoyable to perform. There are infinite structures that long-form can be used in for performance. Notable structures include the Armando, the Harold and the La Ronde. Long-form skills offer a very useful tool for writers and actors.
Whereas long-form may follow more abstract creative ideas between scenes, narrative is what is it says on the tin. The performers use their improv skills and knowledge of story structure to create a narrative on stage from audience suggestions. Many groups who perform narrative improv perform in a certain style or genre. For example ‘Austentatious’ perform in the style of a play of a Jane Austen novel, The Showstoppers perform in the style of a west end musical and The Mayday’s Happily Never After show is performed in the style of a Tim Burton film. Once you’ve learned the basics, pick a style and go make an awesome narrative show.
Who are the dingbats?
Most of the Dingbats workshops are facilitated by Ed Pithie. Ed is an experienced improviser who was first introduced to improv around 9 years ago. He has performed with Play it by Ear, Slow Loris, Fireflies and with City Impro at sell-out shows at the Camden Fringe and Brighton Fringe. Ed has trained with The Maydays, Hoopla and the Nursery (all brilliant schools which you should check out if you are London or Brighton based). Ed has a degree from the University of Kent in Drama and Film where, believe it or not, he spent a lot of his course focusing on improvisation and where he was first introduced to the art. Since moving back to his home town of Crawley (West Sussex) he has set up a weekly drop-in workshop in Horley (Surrey) and has been teaching every week for over 5 years.
Can I do it? is it scary?
Improvisation is about being able to listen to your teammates and build on their creative ideas with your own creative ideas and knowing that they will support you in the same way; if you can do that, you can improvise. We understand that it can seem daunting, that's why we focus on making sure all participants are fully supported throughout the entire workshop. We promise that by the end of a workshop, you will feel comfortable and safe improvising with fellow humans (who are all in the same boat).
How can I get involved with Dingbats?
Whether you want to come to a workshop and play some improv games for fun in the evening, or upgrade your acting or writing skills, or just join us when we go to watch shows, there are lots of ways to get involved with the community...