PETA Theater to host a week of improv goodness
MANILA, Philippines – Heads-up, comedy fans! Third World Improv and the PETA Theater Center are teaming up to hold the 5th Manila Improv Fest. The critically-acclaimed showcase of international and homegrown improv talent has gone a long way since it started half a decade ago.
“The first festival is small compared to what’s coming up,” says Jay Ignacio, co-founder of SPIT, one of the groups performing at the festival. “We’ve partnered with PETA, and that really opened the doors for more international performances… this has become the premier event for improv in Asia.”
A global lineup
This year’s Manila Improv Festival will gather over 50 improv acts from all over the world, including groups and individuals from Israel, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Australia, the United States, Spain, Colombia, France, and Venezuela.
“This is the most international festival we have had yet, with special shows that celebrate and embrace the roots of the individual performers,” says festival producer Gabe Mercado. “For example, we have an all Latino show, a French show, an Indians of Singapore Show, and an LGBTQ show.”
With a roster of improv troupes that spans the globe, the stage is set for a diverse range of topics and unique cultural quirks.
“Different countries have their own flair,” says Ignacio. “Like one of the crowd favorites is the Japanese team Pirates of Tokyo Bay. Sila short-form, pero riot. As in, gumugulong sa kakatawa ang mga tao!”
With over 50 troupes slated to perform, comedy fans can expect to see a myriad of different improv styles. For example, Australia’s Impromafia will be bringing their brand of rapid-fire short form improv to Manila.
France’s Théâtre de l’Oignon Company, on the other hand, will be showcasing their unique mix of physicality and slow improv. And then there is our own Maki-Improv, Huwag Matakot! a group that tackles politics in anticipation of the upcoming elections.
Even with the differences, certain commonalities arise between troupes from different countries.
“We’ve noticed that a lot of our sensibilities are similar to other third world countries, like some Latin American countries,” says Rosales. “Medyo ma-hugot din sila, katulad ng mga Filipino.”
“I hate to use the cliché, pero yun yung nagiging feedback, malakas ang sense of puso,” adds Ignacio, of the local troupes’ approach to improv. “The stories that have been told onstage have become very mapuso.”
Local improv troupes also take cues from the so-called “Chicago style” of improv, which puts an emphasis on longform pieces and understated delivery.
“Jason Chin, who was a comedy teacher from Chicago, came here to teach us,” says Rosales. “Most of our teachers are from Chicago. So our influence is very Second City (a revered comedy group based in Chicago).”
Politics and local flair
Manila Improv Festival 2019 is part of PETA Theater’s Stage of the Nation campaign, which bridges art and politics. Given our politically-charged landscape, current events feature prominently in the material of local groups.
“It naturally comes out in the topics,” explains Rosales. “Because we are active in the political scene as well. For example, SPIT tends to be very political. We have activists, we have NGO people among our members.”
“There’s always gonna be commentary,” says Ignacio. “So sometimes, even if the subject that the audience suggests, for example, chocolate, somebody will have social commentary (using that).”
Despite the serious subject matter, our improv groups have a knack for turning it into enjoyable, even uplifting, performances. “We happen to be very playful,” Ignacio adds.
“One of our core principles is Make Your Partners Look Good. “We challenge our partners. Talagang on the spot ang co-player, and that’s where all the magic happens.”
“We call it ‘gaguhan with care,'” says Rosales, laughing. – Rappler.com
The Manila Improv Festival is happening from March 27-29, 2019. For info on tickets and schedules, visit Ticket2Me's website.