More than a cliché
Harvey Fierstein said something really interesting about him writing movies centring on queer characters. He says he’s really happy that other people (in particular straight people) can identify with his movies, but he’s happiest that ‘[I don’t] have to translate anymore’. As queer improvisers, both workshop leaders have, like many others, often run up against the issue of not seeing themselves on stage or being given the scope to play well-rounded queer characters, whose motivations or issues aren’t just based around their sexuality. Even in very liberal company, who want to be open to the possibility, the default for two characters of the same gender on stage will almost always be friends, parents and children, siblings, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, teachers and students, shop assistants and customers, Roy Sheider and Jaws – but very rarely queer people. And on the rare occasion that happens, it is usually hammed up to the nines. The Ministry of Unplanned Occurrences specialise in creating rich characters and worlds for them to play in. Using and tweaking various exercises and techniques from improv and theatre, as well as their experience playing in both queer and mixed environments, this workshop will look at opening up the space to perform not just LGBTQ+ characters, but a variety of them. There are whole new worlds to discover once we give ourselves permission to acknowledge that LGBTQ+ people exist in the world and in multitudinous variety. Are these people married, divorced, living together, on a first date? What if they are two queer characters with no romantic link!? What is it like when we honestly play more traditionally feminine men or traditionally masculine women? What new locations can we be in? What new references do we share? We would like this workshop to help towards a state where we don’t have to translate any more.
The workshop leaders
Carla Keen is an improviser and theatre maker based in Cambridge. She has studied improv with various international teachers such as David Razowsky, Shawn Kinley, Jason Schotts, Susan Messing, Rachael Mason, and Jill Bernard, as well as recently with Improbable. She currently performs in Cambridge with The Ministry of Unplanned Occurrences, and is part of the cast of Love and Misinformation, both of which focus on long-form narrative improv. She has taught improv for three years, and prior to that was an English as a Foreign Language teacher for four years.
James Stedman is an improviser and playwright based in Cambridge and has been improvising for 6 years. Also having studied with various international teachers including Clare Kerrison, Shawn Kinley, Katy Schutte, Showstopper, he has performed throughout the country with various groups including Cambridge-based Riot at the Bus Stop and musical group Paper Planes as well as the London-based queer improv group QI. In addition, along with his colleagues from The Ministry of Unplanned Occurrences, he has run a variety of improv workshops including weekly drop-ins for the Cambridge community, for students at Anglia Ruskin University, a workshop on performance skills for humanist celebrants and innumerable jams.