Christine Brooks is an improvisor, trainer, director and creator/co-creator of weird improv show concepts including The Long Weekend, The Museum of Broken Relationships, Love Isthmus: Dystopia Edition, The Restaurant, Taking off the Bird Suit, Thrills & Swoon, Definitely Not Witches, Definitely Not the Babysitters Club, The Mackenzie Morgan Advice Dispensary and many more. Here are Five Things!
One: Where has your improv journey taken you?
I did my first improv game at Heaton Intermediate School in a school clubs type environment when I was about 11. I remember thinking it was so good and kept wanting more. At high school, I joined my Theatresports group and it was probably my favourite thing about high school – that and English class (see below). There were a group of boys a couple of years ahead of me who had all drunk the Keith Johnstone Kool-aid and they were extremely passionate about it so I learned a lot from them.
When I went to uni I stopped improvising and fell in with the debating crowd and there just wasn’t room in my life for two geeky extra-curricular activities. It wasn’t until I moved to Wellington for my first job in the public service that I realised I wanted, nay needed, to go back to the improv watering hole and do some stuff that wasn’t all about my brain. I saw a performance of Love Possibly by WIT and the Improv Divas that was unlike any improv I’d ever seen (it was long form and relationship focused) and got myself involved.
From there I have been involved in lots of different groups and shows in Wellington (WIT, Playshop, Soap Factory, Definitely Not Witches) and made amazing friends around the world at festivals where I’ve had the pleasure and privilege to teach and perform.
Two: What are you teaching at the locomotive launch?
I’m teaching joy! I actually wouldn’t have picked myself as the person to teach this because I am quite a think-y indecisive kind of person in most contexts and have a tendency to spend more time analysing ‘what even is joy’ than actually experiencing it unabashed, but improv seems to be the one place where I can get out of my head and just kind of intuitively do it without feeling completely trapped by my over-analytical brain.
When people compliment my improv performance I say that I am not technically very good (there is a long list of things I am bad at including object work, accents, physical work etc etc the list goes on) but I just commit extremely hard and don’t worry too much if I ‘get it wrong’. I kind of want to be the person I am on stage in real life but that person would probably be quite annoying in large doses so maybe not.
FYI - I am currently working on a Venn Diagram that will provide a schematic representation of joy and improv so maybe trying to teach this is a bad idea. Come along and watch it all fall apart! There are three other teachers who have their shit together teaching at the launch so come for them and consider the Venn Diagram a bonus or an unfortunate denouement to an otherwise enjoyable day, depending on how things all pan out.
Three: What non-improv stuff are you learning about at the moment?
I’m currently studying my Masters of Teaching and Learning (Secondary) at Victoria University, which means I’m training to be a high school English teacher. A couple of years ago I decided I wanted to change my career away from the core public service I had always known and branch out. I loved English so much at school (see above) but I hadn’t studied it at university so I decided to go back and do a Graduate Diploma of Arts in English Literature last year so that I could teach the subject I truly loved. Being a teacher is kind of like being on stage performing all the time so I get to use my improv skills every day. I actually can’t wait to get my own class next year and have a captive audience for my long running improvised soap opera. Sorry in advance to all those students.
Four: What is your favourite thing about improv?
My favourite thing to do is creating new improv show ideas and then trying them out at festivals with a bunch of enthusiastic and talented people. I like the way an idea gets changed and altered by the unique mix of people in the room and an original provocation becomes something quite different. E.g. two years ago I created/directed “The Restaurant” – a real-time long form relationship based show set at a restaurant with lots of different tables of people and the focus moving between tables. I was thinking touching, I was thinking emotions, I was thinking naturalistic. On the night of the show, one of the first tables started planning an art heist and by the end of the show there were cannons of custard being fired. It was a great show and totally different from what I had imagined but honestly, that’s why I loved it because it became something different given the people that were there in the moment. Improv!
Five: What’s the fifth thing?
There is no fifth thing. Sometimes it’s better to end the scene early – don’t drag it out. Diminishing returns etc.
That was five things! Christine teachers JOY at our Locomotive Launch, Sunday 30 June, and will be bringing that same joy to our party afterwards - join us there? You can find Christine if you look very hard for her in dark sneaky places.