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Chris Craddock is a prolific, provocative, award-winning playwright and performer whose urban pop culture satires have wowed audiences coast to coast. The former Artistic Director of Rapid Fire Theatre, he’s a recipient of the Centennial Medal of Alberta for his contribution to the arts. His new TV show, Tiny Plastic Men, airs this fall on SuperChannel.

Hey, all post-secondary Drama Programs except Humber College. It’s me, Chris. I wanna ask you about something.

How come you don’t offer improv?

I know you have improv classes, but I’m talking about the real stuff. The way it’s done in the real world by us improv professionals? Because, and I mean no disrespect here, but it seems like any drama kid that wants to find out how to really improvise, they have to come to us.

They get all this Theatresports in high school, but then when they get to their university ‘improv’ course, it’s all silent tensions and rolling on the ground and no one mentions Keith Johnstone or Del Close, let alone The Crumbs or Jacob Banigan. In taught university drama course improv, its always some other thing.

And I’m not saying the other things are bad or have no place in your programs. I’m not saying that people don’t use those techniques to make wonderful theatre. I’m saying there’s a real absence of the one art form where being a Canadian is actually an advantage. What? Oh yes! In Europe, where most of our art forms come from, they think we’re pretty awesome at the art of improv comedy. And it is an art, University Drama Programs, even though it’s funny.

And we’re doing a fine job of your job, by the way. I’m not saying we need you, because the kids coming up are incredible. I’m saying you’re missing out. You should have courses in this stuff, because it’s a significant movement in how live performance happens, and Canada is on its cutting edge.

But if you can’t do that and want to go on as you are, it’s okay. Just do us this one favour. Keep telling your students not to join the local improv company. It helps us get the ones with the right attitudes.

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  1. Jayden #
    June 12, 2012

    Well asked, Crad. The University of Regina now offers Basic Improv in their Theatre Department, which I have taught the last 2 years. I teach it the way I would teach any group of experienced improvisers, and the results are awesome. The theatre students see the natural integration of their traditional training and the skills of improvisation, the non-theatre students learn to get comfy in their own skin. Its also a popular course, with roughly 30 people per class. Plus I get to wax poetic about improvisation as means a of solving the world’s problems, and about all the companies and people who inspire me. I’m super proud of the U of R for offering it, the value is obvious to anyone who understands what they’re looking at. Now, to get it in all universities!

    • June 19, 2012

      Cool man. Even as I wrote I thought I might be wrong. Glad to hear you have cracked the Ivory Tower and let some improv light in!

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