I saw Amanda first in an improvisation show around 2003, when improv was first gaining ground in Mexico. I later had the fortune to meet her and work with her. We lost track of each other and, years later, ran into each other during a workshop. Since then, we have worked together several times in improv-related projects. She is the most experienced improviser currently attending the CoIL.
Ana: When and how did you start improvising?
Amanda: I started improvising about halfway through my degree because the degree coordinator, Luis Mario Moncada, invited Omar Argentino to give us a class. He said “we’re going to form a Mexican Improvisation League”, and that sentence created a spark in my head; I said “I want to be a part of that league, whatever that is”. I hadn’t the slightest idea what it was and that was how it started. It was a class of about 40 people, so there were a lot of us. It was a group that I hadn’t been with because of the strike, and I met them all there. The group already had problems: some of its members already disliked each other for certain reasons; some of them had already started performing professionally, some with other people; others hadn’t yet, and they already disliked each other. And I noticed that when we improvised or did the exercises that Omar Argentino set, they had to break through the issues that they had with each other, and that fascinated me. I was a complete outsider, and I always have been a bit outside, but I thought it was very interesting. I liked it a lot and I laughed… I had never laughed so much in a class. I remember not being able to continue a Shakespeare-style scene because we were all on our knees crying from laughing so much.
Ana: And why do you continue to improvise?
Amanda: I think because it still makes me laugh a lot and I think it is something I am truly fascinated by. I love to have something be so spontaneous, so surprising; and that it is so surprising in regards to all the ideas that appear out of nowhere. I think that is great. And also because of its capacity to bring people together; I also like that a lot. I don’t know exactly what it is, but I guess the stories created together bring people together; because stories that are told within a society, within a community, within an era – I’ve just finished reading The Power of Stories – I think they have the power to bring people together because you’re all putting yourselves there.
Ana: So you are using improv for things beyond just making a show; like using it for group generation or as therapy?
Amanda: Yes. Like group generation and endless fun. I believe a show has different elements that are big obstacles in letting this highly spontaneous and fun thing happen. I much prefer to work it as a group inside than putting it on stage. I like it a lot on stage as well, because it has the element of the audience and of throwing yourself into the unknown. Last time I was on stage – it had been a long time since I last improvised – I was in Señorita Impro, and I had such a headache before… because I hadn’t trained with the other improvisers, because I hadn’t been told which games we’d be playing. I felt on the edge of a cliff and I was really scared. Once I got on stage and started, the headache went away. It disappeared. It was very impressive. But I was very apprehensive and highly stressed.
Ana: And what do you feel that improvisation gives to your personal life?
Amanda: Lots of fun, but also a place of exploration with regards to personal obstacles. I met a guy who does parkour who told me that parkour was an exercise in seeing where your limit is, and about finding where it is and pushing it; finding out where it is without breaking anything; it is about going very slowly. And I was telling a friend I was with – because the parkour guy was telling us both – “of course, in parkour doing this is easy because the limits are outside: the sidewalk, the thing you have to jump over, the forward or backward somersault… but in improv they are within; your obstacles are of a different nature”. I think the people who are able to find those obstacles, break them, and get themselves into a risky position again… I think those are the improvisers who are worth it. And I would like to be an improviser like that. I think that is why I don’t have a group: because I like those risks.
Ana: Why do you feel the laboratory is important for you? Why do you come?
Amanda: I come because I think you understand improv more like I understand it. I have tried finding someone with whom I can improvise like that. I think I could improvise with, for example, Omar Argentino. But Omar Argentino is never looking for someone to improvise with; he does it alone, and that has always impressed me. I admire him, but it also makes me wonder: “is it that there is no one with whom one can improvise so delicately, so interestingly, so… magically?”
Ana: What do you think should be improved in improv?
Amanda: For me, it should be more about finding that inner obstacle, and if you can do it with the audience – I mean do it honestly – I think the audience is grateful when you put yourself in trouble and you find solutions; and if you know how to find solutions well it is even better. But I do think that to be a good improviser, you also need to have a lot of scenic tools and I think there are lots of people who are not trained for the stage.
Ana: But what do you think we are great at when improvising?
Amanda: I think I am very impressed by all the proposals there are. I am impressed that there are so many formats when it is really just one thing. It doesn’t really go that far. I like seeing that there are so many formats, and that some of them are short or long, and that we are searching. I think that is great, it is endless, and that suddenly something really good might appear. One thing that Bruno Bert said once was that there were many theatre groups upon leaving university and that became a hummus for one or two groups that would be the ones to stand out or to become great, but all those groups were the fertile ground, and I think there is a lot of fertile ground in Mexico. I am also very impressed by something Ricardo Esquerra said: “I want improv to be part of our free time like any other genre; for people to see improv, and for there to be improv shows.” Because there was a back then when there were no improv shows, and after that, after the match and 10 years it proliferated, and now there is a genre of improvisation, and people generally know what it is. It did arrive in the precise moment and it spread, and that was amazing.
 by Horst Kornberger.
 Artistic Director of the International Street Theatre Festival in Zacatecas, Mexico.
 Mexican actor, improviser and director.