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FIRST COURSE OF IMPROVISATIONAL COMEDY IN ENGLISH SET TO OPEN IN KOŠICE

Acting without planning

A STAGE with nothing on it except for a few chairs. A group of people approaches the chairs. Somebody from the audience shouts an idea or a theme. Suddenly, a story, characters, and settings begin to come to life.
No playwright prepared the performers' dialogue and no director set down their moves beforehand. The acting is spontaneous, on-the-fly. And the result - a hell of a lot of fun.
"I would never have thought that something like this would be for me," says 23-year-old David Čeljuska, a student at the Technical University in Košice. "Just the idea of standing on stage in front of people gave me goose bumps."


WARMING up for improv during a class run by W!T in Washington, DC, which inspired Čeljuska to run his own improv course.
photo: Courtesy of David Čeljuska

A STAGE with nothing on it except for a few chairs. A group of people approaches the chairs. Somebody from the audience shouts an idea or a theme. Suddenly, a story, characters, and settings begin to come to life.

No playwright prepared the performers' dialogue and no director set down their moves beforehand. The acting is spontaneous, on-the-fly. And the result - a hell of a lot of fun.

"I would never have thought that something like this would be for me," says 23-year-old David Čeljuska, a student at the Technical University in Košice. "Just the idea of standing on stage in front of people gave me goose bumps."

The first time Čeljuska was introduced to improvisational acting was during an English course he took at Howard Community College in the US state of Maryland. He was eager to communicate better with Americans, so his teacher advised him to join an improvisational theatre class. During the first two weeks, Čeljuska was telling himself that it was the biggest mistake he had ever made. But soon, he fell in love with improvisational comedy so deeply that he decided to import it to his home country.

"After I came back to Slovakia, I knew that I had to continue with it. But I didn't know how because no such [improvisational theatre] group ever existed here," he says.

Failing to find any professional actors who were interested or who had experience in this kind of comedy in Slovakia, Čeljuska opted for what he had been trained to do - improvise. He decided to create an independent theatre company in his hometown that would train people in the art of improvisational comedy in English.

He rented a house some 20 minutes from the centre of Košice. In a large room with nothing but chairs (nothing else is needed for this kind of theatre, Čeljuska explains), he aims to bring people together, teach them the basics of improvisational comedy and create the first improv group in this country, with which he plans to tour and perform in cafes. The course, titled Just Improv, is scheduled to start on February 22.

"On the one hand, I am afraid that [because of doing it in English] we won't get any audience at home. On the other, I hope that by performing in English there will be more opportunities abroad. And I really want to do it in English, because it sounds more funny to me in that language," Čeljuska says.

During the year he spent in America, he took another improvisational course in Washington, DC, and had a chance to see performances of five different improv groups across the country. Two of them were the renowned ImprovOlympic and the Second City comedy troupes, both based in Chicago, where the careers of many great comics, like Mike Myers, Gilda Radner, and Alan Alda, were born.

"To me Improv comedy is the seeking of humour in truth, to find out what life really is like. It's not cheap joke telling - that, by the way, is prohibited - the idea is based on knowing how to have fun without telling each other jokes. What we make fun of is the truth and then the uncovering of it," Čeljuska says.

Since everyone uses improvisation in their daily lives - children to explain why they are late for school, businessmen to buy or sell a product - most people know how exhausted one can end up when thinking on the spot. And they also know how funny the experience can be in retrospect.

"[Improvisational comedy] is basically for all those who want to have fun in their lives, who want to try something new, and, obviously, for those who like the TV show - Whose Line Is It Anyway?" says Čeljuska.

"It's speaking without thinking, acting without planning, and, above all, having fun!"

What: Just Improv - course of improvisational comedy.
When: Opens February 22 at 11:00.
Where: Watsonova 23, Košice (last stop of tram #7).
Admission: free.
Participants have to be able to react in English. For more information visit http://improv.host.sk.

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