Clare Kerrison is an actor, arts administrator and improv tutor with a long history of creating and delivering improv classes to folk in the UK and NZ. Along with the other co-founders, her next creation is classes for Locomotive - a new improv training company in Te-Whanganui-a-Tara. Here are five things!
ONE: HOW DID YOUR IMPRO JOURNEY START?
I grew up on a farm in the middle of Te-Pōtae-o-Maniapoto (King Country). Despite being committed sports people (my dad represented NZ in orienteering and Mum still reps NZ in veterans tennis) my parents were great at grabbing opportunities to support my interest in performance. So at age 14 I ended up in a weekend Theatresports workshop and show in Te Kuiti with a visiting Canadian and I loved it! I played again at Waikato university and we managed to get Theatresports included in the inter-university sports tournament. After Uni, I did most of my big OE in Germany and learned a lot of different skills while working as a clown and stilt-walker for a giant shopping mall. Today I still do a lot of non-verbal and object work when improvising which helps with audience connection in multi-lingual environments - and kids shows!
Since then I've had real ah-ha moments from studying with Keith Johnstone, Loose Moose, Patti Stiles, and Shawn Kinley. I started learning and performing US style 'long form' and The Harold when I lived in Cambridge, UK (it's a sweet train ride down to London) and got great learning moments with Monkey Toast, Susan Messing. Rich and Rebecca Sohn, Lyndsay Hailey, Jason Shotts and Colleen Doyle, and Mike Orton-Toliver. I'm not listing all these folks to simply name-drop! More to say, "hey these are my inspiring teachers and if you're wondering whether to take that class with them, my answer is 'yup - definitely.''
TWO: HOW DID YOU GET TO LOCOMOTIVE?
After finishing a 3 year diploma in acting, I found myself in Wellington. I played with The Improvisers for a short stint then joined the group that evolved into WIT, so I'm one of the 15 original co-founders. I also co-founded the Cambridge Improv Factory in Cambridge UK, and founded my own improv school there as well. When I got back to NZ in 2016, I co-founded Basejump Improv with James Smith and now I'm co-founding Locomotive!! It's really important to me that all these projects have been collaborative, like improv, and evolved out of the passion, drive and diverse skill sets of the founders. Most of the time I'm 'yes, anding' other folks ideas or community needs and then I just find myself being part of something amazing. In this case, Jen O'Sullivan is our conductor and engine room and I'm stoked to be a key carriage on this train.
THREE: WHAT ARE YOU TEACHING AT THE LOCOMOTIVE LAUNCH?
My session is about Context. I've had the privilege of learning so many different 'ways to improvise' (including my experiences as a dramatic and comedic actor) and I think each is appropriate to the context of the aims, make up and audience of its creators and practitioners. My class could be a lecture (!) but, as a kinaesthetic learner myself, I prefer to get us on our feet and try stuff out for ourselves.
FOUR: WHAT NON-IMPROV STUFF ARE YOU LEARNING ABOUT AT THE MOMENT?
- Mental Health First Aid with CoLiberate. It's a real game changer for NZ's collective approach to mental health.
- Kupu o te Rā: I don't have space for a Te Reo class at the moment so I get emailed this word of the day (which includes context!!)
- My family history. I've just inherited boxes and boxes of family photos and memorabilia and I'm digitising a bunch of original documents. Oh, the stories I could tell ya!!!
FIVE: WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT IMPROV?
So much!! I've always loved the creative freedom - both my own and seeing the glow of expressive freedom released in my improv students. I also love other people's minds - I love that the sum of an improv scene is bigger than the individual creators. I'm delighted both by the surprise of working with offers I would never have thought of and the deep sense of belonging that comes from being in the present moment with folks on the same wavelength.