Amsterdam International Improv Festival Day 2 – 4 Wrap Up

I am back home from our amazing Amsterdam trip. I have never been to a festival so geared toward the enjoyment, education, and care of the participants. I highly recommend this experience to any improviser in the world and hope I can go back again someday.

So as you can tell, I definitely recovered well from my medical incident. I’m feeling fine and my face is looking better every day. See:

I didn’t get to fill you in on what happened Monday. In the afternoon we had a workshop on Disaster Movie, which we were all to perform on the closing night of the festival. Monday evening we had dinner and then a show where each group in the festival was briefly interviewed and then got to do a 20 minute set to show a little bit about what they do and their style.

They take the hosting very seriously and each night the hosts got dressed up in fabulous costumes. Here is Shannon and I getting interviewed by Hank. Notice the costumes and the height difference.

We performed The Adventurers, our 1930’s Indiana Jones style adventure serial. It was a fun show, but with a distinctive fast talking style that did not go over that well with an international audience. They only understood about 60% of the show. So my puns and mixed up aphorisms were lost on them. It was interesting that most of the Dutch described our show as very verbal, when in Austin, I think we are one of the more physical troupes in town. In this scene Katarina Von Eivel is interrogating Maurice Kincaid:

On Monday we also realized that our new friend Sven was Michael Joplin’s (and Shannon’s) Dutch Doppelganger!!!


Tuesday you’ve already head about for the most part. After spending the afternoon resting, we went in to town for dinner and to catch the evening’s shows. Everyone was very sweet and sympathetic, but I wasn’t that eager to have all the attention.

That night I got to watch the shows:

The opening of the Facebook Feuilleton: a serial where there were episodes every night of the festival. It was a great idea and fun to watch all week. The performers started by getting suggestions to inspire their characters, then we met their characters through their Facebook Status updates, then we saw scenes of the characters interacting. Shannon performed in this show as Bruce McGovern, a lonely aspiring professional Wii Bowler.

Here’s an opening tableau from the show. Notice the host’s beautiful outfit.

The next act was the troupe from Sweden, Stockholms Improvisationsteater doing Tales from the North, inspired by traditional rural stories and settings. It was a fabulous show, like a Swedish Get Up with singing. They started with narration, went in to scene work, and sometimes into singing. But it was a slower, bleaker pace, yet still engaging and hilarious.

I really enjoyed the friendship I developed with Per and Janne during the week. Here they are, before their show. We were all told to bring colorful outfits, since the theater is a black box. Since they normally wear dark colors, they brought these plaid shirts for performance, fitting for the old stories of the North.

After the show there was an open stage, lead by the amazing, larger than life Marijn. It was probably the best festival jam I’ve ever seen. Istanbul Impro led a singing competition, then something else, then I led a triple dance diamond. Great. Here is the band for the jam, with Marijn on the left.

It had been a long day, so I went home straight after the show.

Wednesday we went to the Astrid Lundgren (Swedish author of Pippi Longstocking) workshop, to learn about the longform we’d be performing on Friday night. It was a good workshop, though even these experienced improvisers had a hard time letting things be positive and normal in the opening of the show. (The classroom scene was full of cut-ups and clowns, etc).

After a quick lunch at the theater, Sara and I went to the Van Gogh Museum, like we were supposed to the day before. It was very nice, seeing all his works in chronological order, along with his influences, letters, etc. There was even the actual vase that was featured in a still life of flowers. We sat in the museum cafe afterwards to relax and see the snowy museum square.

Then we walked around the square and the ice skating rink and hopped no the bus to the theater for dinner. After dinner we did a tech rehearsal for the Get Up show that night. Here is our dressing room door!

The first half of the show was Smashing Shortforms, featuring players from all the countries. Sara played with Jim Libby, an ex pat living in Austria, to represent the USA. The women from Slovenia rocked the opening with a clown version of Dolphin Training. The Dutch teams had some amazing singing and a choreographed Jump and Justify game that was completely new to me, but to them was an old standard.

The second half was all Get Up. The track the audience picked was from the medieval folder and had some bagpipes. So the audience suggested kilts, whiskey, and revolution. Shannon put the show in the American Colonies with Scottish and Irish settlers. It became an epic 3 way battle between the Scotch/Irish Colonists, the British Imperialist, and the Native Americans. It was a great show in that it really represented our work and our goals for the show: multiple characters, edits, physical storytelling, slower pace, theme, symbolism, epic, etc.

Here I am as the strong headed son of the Indian Chief, leading my people in to battle and putting on war paint:

Here is the Indian Chief with his soon to be bride, an Irish barmaid who had run away from her village.

After the show, we went to a tiny local bar that we filled up with festival people. The owner brought snacks around on trays. As the night got later, the Amsterdam songs came on louder and louder as she got on the microphone and sang songs and the crowd joined in.


Marijn and the bar owner singing some songs:
Sven, Sara and Marijn having a good time.

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About Shana Merlin

Merlin Works is the brainchild of Shana Merlin: improviser, teacher, and performer. Since 1996, she’s been leading classes that stretch people’s imaginations, push them out of their comfort zones, and make them laugh out loud for hours at a time.
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