Amsterdam International Improv Festival Day 4 -7 Wrap Up

Thursday was a day for tourism. Sven got a car from the carshare, picked us up and we headed out to the countryside. We were promised the local delicacy (pancakes) but the pancake restaurant was closed when we got there. So we got some coffee in this neato but chilly restaurant on the water and waited for the group to arrive.


We walked around the little historic village and saw the windmills, waterways and bridges. Shannon and Korai impersonate a sign.

Me and the windmills.

We went to a cheese shop where they make delicious local cheeses.

What time is it, Evran from Istanbul Impro? Time to eat Cheese!



Then we went to the Wooden Clog exhibit where they had all sorts of clogs on display. Avante Garde Art Clogs.


Wedding Clogs that the groom makes by hand for his bride.

They even demonstrated how they make clogs.


And had all kinds of clogs for sale.


Even giant clogs to model in! Korai and Zaynep from Impro Istanbul: Me and Sara: See Sara’s new Amsterdam hat:


Then we drove to a small fishing village for a late lunch. The tourists were all blown away by this big boat which was turned in to a fake castle with a real horse on top!

There were also birds everwhere. Herons were very common and not afraid of people:


We were so hungry by this point of the day, Sara and I just chowed down on whatever food we could find.


That evening we went back to the theater for dinner. And then got ready to do the Music Night Show. This was a really different way of thinking about directing an improv show and I really liked it. Basically the director (in this case, Anya) set upights set, props, music (a full band), video, host character and script. Improvisers only know the general idea of the show and that we should sing songs when prompted. The theme of this show was the history of Amsterdam and Anya’s character was in a tuxedo, top hat and mustache. It was a wonderful way to have a strong show from a mixed cast, to inspire the players, and to make posiible to really improvise with pre-set pieces that couldn’t emerge organically.

The Band

Me on the set. Note the tulips.

Anya in costume hosting the show, with slides behind her.

The second act was the amazing Kolectiv Narabov with Alenka and Sonya. The had 20 phone books hanging from the ceiling to inspire their character peices, supported by slapstick, movement work, and music. Funny, arty, amazing. Here is Alenka.

Thursday night we went to this awesome blues bar that had all these posters and stickers from Austin! We danced and partied. SO fun.

Sonya par-tays!

Some of our improv musicians got to sit in with the band.

Sonya and Alenka bust a move.

Sara makes a friend. Note: the “He Ain’t Kinky, He’s My Governor” sticker at the top of the photo.
From Austin to Amsterdam! See the poster!
Me and one of my hosts, Leiselotte. To be honest, we just picked up all the glasses and such nearby for this photo.

Friday we taught a workshop on Big Stories, Small Cast. We focused on characters, edits, ensemble, and story structure. It was a little intimidating because so many experienced improvisers and teachers were taking the class.
Students playing Remembering Together in pairs around the room.

Shannon and I demonstrating a internally narrated split scene

After the workshop, we had a nice stroll back to the theater. Our Dutch friends bought Shannon some raw herring from a street vendor. Despite his face in this photo, he did really like it.


The first half of the shows was the Facebook Serial and This is How We Do It: a short form show exploring differences: male/female, tall/short, sensitive/insensitive, Turkish/Dutch, etc. It was surprising how much of the Dutch shows and people were comfortable discussing race, class, and difference.

The second half of the show was the Astrid Lindgren show. I felt pretty ill-prepared since I have very little knowledge of the genre, missed the first day of workshop because of my injury, and was working with people I had only met days before. But I ended up having a lot of fun. I turned out to be the hero and was trying to play the “anarchist character” they had taught us about. Someone who has a good heart but sees the world differently and often gets in to trouble because of it. Friendship is also very important to the genre, so I made sure to have a good friend, Maria, played by my host Leiselotte. Per played my father and we even got to sing. It was hard to play a child in an un-ironic style and time period without things turning in to Disney. But it was a good challenge.
Friday the after party was karaoke. Loads of fun. When we were ready to head home, it started snowing again. Here is Sara in front of the Rozen Theater in the snow with a back pack full of puppets.

Saturday was our last full day in town. We taught another workshop. This time, Special Effects to newer improvisers. Then we had another nice walk home, stopping in some stores and galleries and in the Leidesplien to see the Boom Chicago theater.
That night the first act shows were the finale of the Facebook Feuillton and The Troubadour, where the narrator is singing (though anybody can steal his hat and tag in) and the rest of the actors are acting out the medieval story. I had a ton of fun playing a brutal Knight that set out to defeat the Invincible Monk.
The second half was The Disaster Movie. Where Shannon led the full cast in an adventure through the Amsterdam Airport (which is below sea level) being flooded. Very fun to have everyone on stage at the end of the festival. The highlight was the whole cast serving as the luggage conveyor belt that the survivors rode on to safety.
The last night the party was a masquerade party at the theater with dancing, fortune tellers, storytelling and costumes. A grand time, but hard to say goodbye to so many wonderful new friends. At the end of the night, we stepped outside to get a Get Up photo in front of the theater.

I hope we can bring some of our new international friends to Austin and share all the good stuff with our old improv friends at home.

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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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