I met Paola in a Gympro session in 2016. She claims to have seen me before, during an improv show – Impro y ya – in 2014, just before she started improvising with CoIL. Since then she has taken several workshops and participated in several improvisation shows in Mexico City. This is the second interview for CoIL organisation, you can find the first interview here
Ana: When and how did you start improvising?
Paola: I started improvising 5 years ago; about two weeks after that Impro y ya we were just talking about. Pali invited me to the Impro y ya. She used to talk to me a lot about improv. So finally I went to that Impro y ya and it made me want to do it. I am like that; if I want to do something, I want to do it right then. So I asked Pali about one of the performers, and it was Piolo, and she gave me his contact details. It turned out there was a workshop with him coming up two weeks later, so things just lined up. It was as if life was telling me: “Come in, improvise.” That was it.
Ana: And why do you continue to improvise?
Paola: Because improvising is cheaper than going to therapy… Just kidding! I love being on stage, but I don’t have much time. If I were to dedicate myself to theatre, it would imply a time commitment that I can’t do. I still do it because improvising means I don’t have to wait: I don’t have to wait to improvise, to become one of my characters. I don’t have to wait through 6 months of rehearsals. In every training session, every time I get on stage, something happens to me. I like how I have evolved and how I have been able to come back to theatre through improvisation. I would have never imagined that I was going to do that. So everything I learnt in theatre I apply to improv.
Ana: And what do you feel that improvisation gives to your personal life?
Paola: Maybe that which I don’t like is also what I love the most: constantly changing the stage where you perform, the format, the people, everything. Having everything changing constantly makes me live with this nervousness of never knowing what is going to happen, never knowing whom I’m going to meet. I have never met as many people as I’ve done through improv. And I speak as much for those who get on stage as for the audience, because in improv shows, the audience is very friendly. I always get to meet them at the end of the show and I love that. Being in contact with them and getting feedback immediately after you get off stage; I love it. For me, meeting people is a chance to see different characters; every person I meet is a character. It is not about the social life, it is about meeting new characters. Seeing what my mates have to offer on stage as characters and being able to meet all those people who came to see us (who probably came to see us because they are such characters)… I wouldn’t change that for the world.
Ana: Why do you feel the laboratory is important for you? Why do you come?
Paola: I decided to attend the lab because I love experiencing new things. I like working with new people and doing different work because otherwise your practice gets corrupted. I stayed in the laboratory because, in the past two years, it is where I have been able to explore the characters that live in my restless brain the most. I bring my characters with me and see if they work. And I love that we can build on them through the proposals of the other crazy people who go to the lab – because they are all crazy, right? I also like that everyone seems as crazy as me.
Ana: What do you think should be improved in improv?
Paola: For starters, there is a lack of commitment. For some reason, people who do improv, since it is related to “playing”, they play… with other people’s time. So, all the honesty with which they play also appears as dishonesty in their real actions. There is a lack of commitment and there is a lack of courage to stay. It is the same thing: it is so disorganised that we go from one flower to the next and we don’t stay in the same place long enough to develop a concept. I think what improv in Mexico needs is to develop interesting concepts but without being pretentious. I mean we have to really commit to developing a new concept that we can all see is new, with the novelty lying in seeing it through from beginning to end developing constantly. There are very few people in Mexico who do that. The real pros: Pilar Villanueva, Piolo, also Cheryl and Galo… there’s so few and there are so many improvisers. The truth is that we don’t have mid to long-term projects. That is missing. And also, improvisers need to have acting education. Improvisers… there are so many who are at odds with acting and that’s wrong; these two things go together. You can’t get on stage and think: “I don’t need theatre education”; that’s bullshit.
Ana: But what do you think we are great at when improvising?
Paola: To begin with, we are like a religious community. Really. We all help each other. When we have to be somewhere or to support something, we are there. Maybe that is why you always see the same people at the shows. It is about supporting the talent and that is the way to do it: you go see me, and then I’ll go see you, etc. That is something we do very well. And we do have good schools… well, like two or three good schools: Pilar, Piolo and HONDOM as a more general thing. These are schools that do build something. I won’t go into what the others are doing because it is like crazy prostitution of the art, so I won’t even mention them. But at least I think those three schools have their concepts well defined and that helps. They teach with order and structure. They have a methodology; it is not just a random thing.
 Impro y ya was an initiative begun by improviser Paulina Peña in 2012. Originally, it provided a space like CoIL, where people could get together and improvise once a week. Later, shows were organised to raise funds for several causes, including helping people who had been harmed by floods and for the creation of the Improvisers’ Association HONDOM.
 Paulina Peña, organizer of Impro y ya.
Piolo Juvera is an improviser and teacher. Piolo belonged to the generation of improvisers mentioned by Amanda Farah in the first interview of this series. He is the founder of ImproVisa. More information can be found at: http://www.improvisa.com.mx (in Spanish).
 Improviser and teacher with the company Ápeiron. Pilar also belonged to the first generation of improvisers mentioned by Amanda Farah. More information can be found at: http://www.apeironteatro.org (in Spanish).
 Cheryl Sue and Galo Balcázar are improvisers who have also undertaken activities of cultural promotion of improv. They give workshops and have taken part in the establishment of HONDOM, an international association that supports improvisers worldwide.