Pushing Boundaries: Improvising and Crossing Genres : Part 1 – Improvising



The Adelaide Fringe came to a screaming conclusion at the weekend. My attention over the last week was focussed on the west end of the city, where the SPOKE mini-festival was going on.

Two events caught my eye, both involving a workshop, followed by a live performance.

1 . Improv Poetry

The first was Improv Poetry. Teri Louise Kelly and Daniel Watson gave an excellent morning workshop on how to improvise poetry.  The idea is that a word is thrown at you from the audience.   The challenge then is to speak for a minimum of 40 seconds, and maximum of two minutes.  If you don’t like the first word, you can reject it, but then you HAVE to take the second word.  You have 10 seconds maximum to gather your thoughts.

Daniel Watson of Paroxysm Press

Daniel Watson

So, for instance, in the workshop I was given the word “face”.  I managed to cobble together a passable two minute story about being able to order a new face from an internet site called “Faces ‘R’ Us”, and have it delivered to your door, so that you could be a new person whenever you wanted.  Went down well with the workshop attendees. I was feeling good.

When it came to the live event however, on an open air stage at Shimmering West in the evening, faced with lights and an audience and traffic noise (and a few beers), it goes to another level of difficulty. Added to this is the extra pressure of a $500 prize for the winner! Thinking on your feet becomes a great deal harder.

This time, the word thrown to me from the audience was ‘garbage’. The trick with this sort of thing is to stay calm, think laterally, find a good entry point, make your mind up quickly, and keep talking. Easier said than done. I managed to burble on about rubbish bins for about a minute, before I dried up. I wasn’t alone. Very few competitors made it to the two minute mark. Even our most succesful slam poets were struggling by their own high standards.

Needless to say, I didn’t win. The winner was a nice young man called Kiefer Rodriguez, an Adelaide stencil artist, who was attempting this challenge for the first time and was given the word ‘nose’.  He spoke about the pain of having a broken nose.  He was convincing. I asked him afterwards when he broke his nose.  “I’ve never had a broken nose” he replied.  That’s the secret: spontaneous creativity.  Good on him.

Full Results: 1st – Kiefer Rodriguez, 2nd Annie Fox, 3rd Nicki Bullock

Teri Louse Kelly

Teri Louse Kelly

Jenny Toune aka Red Uncensored

Jenny Toune aka Red Uncensored

An interesting event, and one I will have another go at. Well done to Teri Louise and Daniel for the workshop, and to the excellent MC-ing and organisational skills of Jenny Toune.

Part 2 on “Crossing Genres” will follow in my next post.

Upcoming Event

If you’re in Adelaide tomorrow (Wed 21st March), I’m MC-ing a great Friendly Street Poets event at the State Library of South Australia: Words@Wall with Mike Ladd (of ABC fame) and Rachael Mead, two of our very finest poets.  5:30-6:15. Followed by the Australian Poetry Slam at 6:30.  Should be a great evening.


2 thoughts on “Pushing Boundaries: Improvising and Crossing Genres : Part 1 – Improvising

  1. I took part in the last poetry slam but got nowhere 😦 but Daniel Watson is pretty good; and I’ve seen Teri Louise Kelly perform: she isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but she gets it out there; don’t know if she’s taken part in a slam?

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