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First-ever Manila Improv Festival set

Shaun Landry (Contributed photo_While many theatergoers have yet to discover improv or improvisational theater beyond the “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” description, Gabe Mercado’s Silly People’s Improv Theater (SPIT) has been around for almost a decade.
 
To celebrate its 10th year, SPIT is hosting the first-ever international improv festival in the country—the Manila Improv Festival 2012 from June 28 to July 1 to be held at Quantum Café, 9590 Kamagong St. cor. Bagtikan St., Makati City.
 
 
It will feature improv groups from Beijing, Xiamen, Hong Kong, Taichung, Cebu, and Bacolod, as well as special guests and master class instructors Tom Farnan and Shaun Landry from Los Angeles.
 
Shaun Landry and culturally-relevant comedy

Yahoo! Philippines OMG! had an exclusive interview with Landry through chat and she was more than happy to talk about the festival.
 
Gabe, SPIT and Manila Improve founder, said Shaun set up the first African- American improv group called “Oui Be Negroes.” She also founded the San Francisco Improv Festival.
 
“When I first started doing improvisation back in 1986 in the States I realized that there was a huge disconnect in the experience of minorities in improvisation,” Shaun shares  how she started Oui Be Negroes.
 
“Improv has always been considered like jazz, so that is where the disconnect really hit: Jazz is pretty much known culturally as being created by African Americans. So if Improv is jazz, why are there not more African American jazz players in the mix?”
 
Shaun went to The Second city Chicago Minority Outreach Program and “sought out African Americans to start the company to bring not only voice culturally to improvisation, but to one day hope to get more African Americans interested in doing this art form.”
 
They started Oui Be Negroes in 1994. After almost two decades, it has come up with new Afro-American  groups and more companies “bringing different voices in America with their own heritage.”
 
Gabe points out that Shaun’s work in doing “culturally rooted and culturally relevant improv” may help bring out Asian Identity in improv.
 
More than “Whose line”

What does she  think when audiences  define improv as “it’s like from Drew Carey’s 1998-2006 improvisational game show ‘Whose line is it anyway?’”?

Shaun shares that she plans to show how improv is far more than that.
 
“I think there is a lot to offer in terms of new formats of improvisation that would be valuable to The Manila Improv Festival. Improv when explained (in the Philippines) still has the tag line ‘It's like Whose Line’ and when audiences come and see the show they are expecting just that but that is not always the case and in a lot of performances can be even funnier than ‘Whose Line.’ It can look like a theatrical production, a seamless theatrical production where the audience walks out and says ‘Wow. Was that improvised or scripted?’ And that is a compliment for improvisers who do not do Whose Line style improvisation.”
 
Shaun is looking forward to coming to Manila and  to bringing improv back in the theatre context.
 
“It's reconnecting improvisation back to the term ‘It's Theater’ instead of ‘It's Whose Line’,” she adds.

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