An ode to the Canadian Improv Games


author: annie trussler | op-ed editor

Credit: Corbin Smith

Everybody’s working for CIG weekend

Throughout high school, I was an absolute and total loser. Anyone who went to school with me can attest I left my scene phase way too late, and was generally pretty unpleasant to be around – sorry high school peers, I got better around grade twelve. The only thing that made me better (less annoying) was being able to participate in the Canadian Improv Games.

Yes, I was a theatre kid, but I wasn’t a theatre kid in the sense that I could sing, dance, or generally perform in ways other theatre kids could. I am uncoordinated, ungraceful, and I have a horrific singing voice (just ask those who care too much to tell me); however, upon entering the CIGs, my life as a theatre kid really began.

Confidence inspired, laughter invited, I stepped out of the realm of high school into the position of regional director of said games. The student becomes the teacher, so to speak.

CIG is a million things. CIG is learning the art of spontaneous performance, as kids are taught to execute stories, characters, and narration in ways that inspire joy and curiosity; students travel across the country for different performance opportunities, including Nationals in Ottawa; but, most importantly, the kids who don’t know where to go finally have a place to go.

I watched myself turn from a backwards, selfish brat to a performer ready to smile, to breathe, and watch the world grow around me.

Each student must perform four of a possible five: theme and life are mandatory, while a team of eight or less can choose two options from character, story, or style.

The theme event involves a team drawing a not previously specified theme that must then be explored through as many creative and captivating means necessary. The life event requires a team to perform a scene sincerely and genuinely, while still incorporating narrative and thematic elements. The character event asks that a team create a unique, one time, developed character that must then explore and weather the trials of the world. The story event simply requires a team to tell a full, original story with the use of improvised narration. Lastly, the style event asks that a team perform a scene in a well-recognized genre or media form (film, television, theatre) while still improvising the narrative therein.

The best time of my life has been with CIG. In my current position, after I have workshopped and trained innumerable teenagers, I get to watch their performances from the booth, and I can tell you, genuinely, I have never been more moved by art than I have at the Canadian Improv Games.

I write this article primarily as an affectionate tribute for my favourite organization, but also because I think the world needs to know more about what is done behind the curtains.

When I think about improv, and when I think about adolescence, I remember one saving me from the other. I finally had a place, at fifteen, where friends did not judge me, and I could express my thoughts without fear of high school’s judgment. I was, at last, in a place where I was not afraid of my own vulnerability, and instead in a place where my vulnerability was a strength.

My Co-RD, Cam Chomyn, and I have spent the last several months organizing shows, meeting with high school students, interacting with teachers, and eventually, putting together two weeks of tournament-style performance.

The junior tournament will run from February 1-3 at Winston Knoll Collegiate, whereas the regional tournament would run from February 5-10 at Leboldus. Five times per night, students will perform their events between excited hosts, raffle-style nonsense and, most importantly, incomparable love. I have never seen such tremendous growth in students and, for that, I am wholly and unbelievably grateful.

The world’s most vulnerable demographic are teenagers between the ages of 12-16. There is no time more frightening, more intimidating, and more full of self-loathing than one’s experience through high school. If we, as adults, can offer these vulnerable children a place to exist and thrive while navigating the turbulent trials of teenagedom, I think it is our obligation to do so.

This article is not a pitch for my passion project. CIG has enthralled the hearts of endless Canadians, so I really don’t think the organization needs any promotion. I am genuinely putting this piece forward for everyone to have fun with me, with us, and with this bizarre organization I have found myself so entirely wrapped in.

You will never, genuinely, have a better time.

If you keep your eyes open around Facebook (and you subscribe to the CIG Saskatchewan Facebook page), there will soon be a link that will let you get tickets to these events. Come play with us. Have fun with us. The talent in these young people is breathtaking, and I would not miss these two weeks for the world. Beep beep!

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