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Saturday, May 13 • 10:00am - 11:30am
Improvisation Studies In History

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Moderated by Drew Chappell, Ph.D.:

  • “Alain Knapp and the Théâtre-Création (Switzerland, 1968-1975).” Dr. Hervé Charton (France), co-founder of LACSE (Lyon, France), Artistic Director of Théâtre Persistant.

    • Abstract: In the worldwide improv community, everybody knows about pioneers such as Viola Spolin, Keith Johnstone, Paul Sills or Del Close, but few have heard about Alain Knapp. Well, of course, he’s Swiss. However, he and his Lausanne theater group from the late sixties, the Théâtre-Création, without knowing anything of the emerging improv groups and teachers oversees, have developed a systematized approach to theatrical improvisation of their own, and are internationally renowned as a pioneering theater group. Through Knapp’s later teaching, many artists, art forms, therapists and teachers in France, Switzerland, Belgium and Québec have found their own way (e.g., Robert Lepage and, to some extent Match d’improvisation). This paper unveils a part of improv history that remains relatively unknown. It tells the story of a Swiss actor/director filled by Brechtian theater and theory who, in the midst of the societal changes of the sixties, invited a group of unsatisfied students and young actors from Vaud theatrical institutions to dive deep into the roots of artistic creation. This paper will explore what they found there and, hopefully, will reveal why Alain Knapp deserves a position alongside other pioneers of improvisation.


  • “Jacob L. Moreno’s ‘Stegreiftheater’, the Avant-garde, and Impro.” Dr. Gunter Löesel, head of research focus Performative Practice, Zurich University of the Arts, and Artistic Director of Improtheater Bremen (Germany)

    • Abstract: Many books see the roots of modern improvisational theater in the commedia dell’arte, but somehow if you look at the commedia, it doesn’t resemble impro at all. I suggest another major influence that has been scarcely discussed so far, the avant-garde movement at the beginning of the 20th century in Europe, with Dada and Expressionism beginning to stage spontaneity very early. Jacob Moreno, before he focused on psychodrama, considered himself an artist and opened the first improvising theater of modern times in Vienna in 1923. This paper will explore Moreno’s work as the “missing link” between the avant-garde movement and impro. Though it is hard to reconstruct what really happened in the weekly performances in Vienna, Moreno published his thoughts, his experiences and a theoretical framework in the book Das Stegreiftheater (Vienna, 1925). It is akin to an early manifesto for an improvisational theater. After over 90 years, Moreno’s theories and concepts still seem radical and inspiring. Apart from filling a gap in the general knowledge of improvisers, who are mostly not aware of this part of their history, I hope to spur a discussion about the influence of the avant-garde movement on impro and what it means for practitioners today.

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Saturday May 13, 2017 10:00am - 11:30am
Chapman Argyros Forum 202

Attendees (3)