The Creative Philosophy of WIT resides in the foundation of the teachings of Keith Johnstone, a world renowned teacher in the art of improvisation and its links to the theatre. His view is, and has always been, that in the right environment improvisation can:
- alleviate the universal fear of being stared at;
- turn ‘dull’ people into ‘brilliant’ people (i.e. ‘negative’ people into ‘positive’ people);
- improve interpersonal skills and encourage a life-long study of human interaction;
- improve ‘functioning’ in all areas (as it says on the snake-oil bottles);
- develop story-telling skills (these are more important than people realise);
- familiarise the student with the bones of theatre, as well as the surface;
- give the stage back to the performers;
allow the audience to give direct input, or even improvise with the performers, rather than sit trying to think up intelligent things to say on the way home.
– (Keith Johnstone, ‘Impro for Storytellers.’ Faber and Faber, London, 1999.)
While Keith’s theories and principles remain the foundation, the experience of the tutors within the group also extends to encompass the respected teachings of others, including Viola Spolin, Del Close, Augusto Boal, and even diverse theatre companies, such as the infamous ‘Second City ’ in the United States. We hope, through the practical development and experimentation of the theories from these, and other individuals and groups (both internationally and locally), to explore and discover our own methods of working and within this our unique identity as an improvisation company both in New Zealand, and the wider world.
Comedy is regarded as the pre-requisite that improvisation is best known for on a public front, and there is no doubt that the nature of the work both lends itself to, and requires it at a certain level (particularly from a training and development point-of-view). However, the philosophy of WIT aims to also explore beyond the bounds of purely comedic improvisation, focussing on story-telling as the determiner of a good performance. Within this lies the greater ability to discover truth and honesty within performance, and from that the opportunity to endlessly explore a wider range of themes and ideas.
It is our belief that a sense of openness and diversity will allow for the greatest advancement of our goals as a company, and as a community based group we have the greatest advantage of discovering people with a real desire and passion for development and exploration. The lack of a profit imperative means we have ample space for creativity, without losing that sense of passion and drive which guides the group.
We believe in a wide range of participation that challenges us as performers, teachers, lighting and sound operators (even front-of-house staff), but also most importantly, as people.
“While the graduates of the courses may not go on to become professional comedians or actors, they nevertheless acquire many important personal and life skills – creativity, the ability to think on their feet, storytelling, team building and co-operation, listening skills and of course a chance to just have fun.”
-Robyn Hambleton, Community Education Co-ordinator, Community Education Centre.
Finally, and the most important condition of all, WIT’s philosophy aims to create and sustain a sense of fun in all it’s dealings with all involved, whether in performance, training, or behind the scenes. All the ideas, risks, vulnerabilities, truth, trust, and emotions that we negotiate with in order to create a rare, unforgettable, moment of improvised theatre needs the perspective that at the end of the day, if it wasn’t fun, we wouldn’t do it.
“It’s wonderful to be surfing on huge waves of laughter, but it begins to pall; you discover that your skills are no longer developing, and that most of the scenes are pointless, and that your contemporaries are drifting away to be replaced by teenagers.
Maybe you give up, or maybe you give up only to get sucked back in again – after all, it’s an interesting ‘hobby’. With luck, you may eventually realise that very little of ‘you’ was ever present on the stage; and that verbal thinking kills spontaneity; and that the world is not six, or sixteen, or sixty seconds in the future; and that a good story is worth any amount of cheap laughs; and that winning and losing are all ashes.
At this point ‘Theatresports’ becomes thrilling and dangerous all over again, and once more a great adventure.”
(Keith Johnstone, ‘Impro for Storytellers’ . Faber and Faber. London, 1999.)