Written by Aira Mae Parado
March 2019 ended with a blast.
As someone who loves comedy and theater, I regretted not learning about this spectacle sooner—I’m talking about the Manila Improv Festival. For the sake of people who are not familiar with the festival yet, it’s where improvisational theater artists from all over the world converge and perform unscripted and unrehearsed plays. As SPIT’s Aryn Cristobal puts it:
The Manila Improv Festival 2019 kicked off from March 27-31 at the PETA Theater Center in Quezon City. Its theme for this year was: “Embrace Your Roots”—celebrating and embracing the roots of all attendees together.
The experience of merely entering the performance areas was already exhilarating. The stage set-up was incredible, filled with colorful blocks, balloons, and installation pieces of kids flying kites—depicting our innocence and playfulness as children.
The diversity was also impressive. There were attendees from Singapore, Beijing, New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong, France, Brisbane, South Korea, Venezuela, Spain, Mexico, and many more. Manila Improv Festival is definitely one of those events that make all intercultural boundaries disappear.
Each studio was a place to hear and be heard. Improv acts were made up from the audience’s suggestions. Artists plotted out movements and dialogue on-the-spot, then penetrated into just any scene as if it was rehearsed. The acting was natural and the spontaneity was remarkable.
Here are a few of my many favorites:
These three Latinos with attitude received a standing ovation for their one-of-a-kind performance. With the word “VISA,” they were able to come up with a play that woke the audience’s minds to issues like family values, LGBTQ+, and more.
PIRATES OF TOKYO BAY:
This group from Tokyo was a crowd favorite. Aside from their genius performances, they incorporated some tagalog phrases in their plays, like “charot” and “salamat.” A lucky fan also got to join them on stage for their “ping-pong ballad” game.
This Singaporean duo impressed the audience with their sharp wit, constructing all the audience’s word suggestions into poems.
The whole show was insanely fun. We were entertained by performances with underlying principles regarding family values, fidelity, politics, LGBTQ+ community, gender equality, and body positivity. Improvisers had their own hilarious but brilliant ways of conveying these. It was impressive.
Another noteworthy thing about the festival was that it canceled language barriers. The group Imfrog, from South Korea, opted to deliver in their own language. Their performance was belly-achingly funny nonetheless. Emotions and body gags really can transcend all differences in languages.
Manila Improv Festival has left me with many good things to remember, and I don’t mind waiting another two years for the next one!
What do you think of this? Have you experienced this kind of festival? Let us know in the comments!
Manila Improv Festival
Presented by Third World Improv
Facebook and Instagram: @thirdworldimprov