The press producer of FiiF2018, Rebekka Katko, has participated in the festival since 2013 in many different roles. Now she tells her story of how FiiF was a turning point in her improv path.
Rebekka showing her armpit first time in a mixer show in FiiF 2015.
First time I participated in FiiF, I was 24 and had been doing short form improv regularly for just a couple of years in the Finnish improv group Impropaatti in Jyväskylä. I had just started to teach a beginner class although I was still a newbie in improv myself, so I was eager to learn more.
It was summer 2013 and the festival was organized for the second time, but it was the first time I heard about it. I took a few workshops and saw my first international improv shows. I was amazed especially by the Israeli group Lamabati, whose show was very physical and expressive compared to the shows I had seen before in Finland.
After the festival I acted as an unofficial tourist guide for a couple of international improvisers. I showed them around in Tampere and took them to the sightseeing tower Pyynikin näkötorni to see the view of Tampere and to taste the best doughnut-like delicacies in Tampere called ”munkki”. That’s how I got to know my first improv friends from abroad.
Two years after my first touch of FiiF, I noticed the possibility to participate in FiiF as a solo player, which meant a chance to perform without my own team. It was 2015 and I was leading a performing improv group in Jyväskylä, so I wanted to get more ideas for the rehearsals and shows.
That week in FiiF 2015 blew my mind. I didn’t know anyone before the festival, but soon I had a feeling that this is where I belong. I spent 24 hours a day with the other FiiF improvisers, since we were all staying at the DreamHostel, taking improv workshops during the day, enjoying amazing shows every evening and hanging out at O’Connell’s pub after the shows. Especially a show from a French group Le Carpe Haute made an impression: it was the first improv show that I had seen, which had no words, just pure physical action – and it was the funniest and most appealing improv show I had ever seen. The actors looked like they were having so much fun on stage, so I wanted to experience something like that, too.
La Carpe Haute performing in FiiF 2015.
It was also a big moment for me to get to perform on stage of a real theatre in two mixer shows with many talented Finnish and international improvisers. That was my first time performing long form improv. I don’t think I had any idea what that was, but nevertheless it felt great. I remember that we met up with the other improvisers just 15 minutes before our show and rehearsed really quickly, so it was super exciting to be on stage with people that I had never done improv with before.
Since then FiiF has developed its mixer shows into ensembles, that practice together for at least 6 hours with a professional improv instructor as their coach. I’m pretty sure that makes the shows much better than back in the days. This year there are a total of eight ensembles with their own unique styles. Players have been able to choose the one that they are most interested in.
I wanted to take advantage of a longer rehearsal time this year so I chose an ensemble which has 2 days of rehearsing together. The show will be called ”Magic Adventure School” and will be coached by Kaci Beeler from Texas, a well known improviser and director at the Hideout Theatre in Austin. I was a real Harry Potter fan as a child so I can’t wait to get to play in a magical world on stage.
Two years ago I was unable to participate the full festival week, but wanted to get at least a small glimpse of FiiF. My friend, who originally got me into improv, was getting married that summer and I was the maid of honor. So I signed myself and my friend up for a FiiF workshop as part of her bachelorette party surprise. It was called Love and Body and taught by Laura Doorneweerd, who is a professional improviser from Amsterdam and one of the instructors and performers in FiiF also this year. The idea of the workshop was to learn how to play romantic scenes. I remember my friend commenting the scenes many times ”That’s just like me and my fiancé!”
Just before last year’s FiiF I had moved back to my hometown Tampere and was recovering from burnout. I hadn’t done much improv for a year, since I had been working full time as a journalist in a small town with no improv scene. My doctor had told me to do more things that I like so I signed up to FiiF as a Guest. It meant that I got to participate in all the workshops and other festival events without performing. That was a great option since I felt my improv skills had gotten quite rusty and I didn’t feel I’d have the energy or courage yet to get on stage.
Even though I had to take a nap between every workshop and go to bed early every night missing out on the after show hang outs at O’Connell’s to be able to survive the festival week, I felt like I had again found my place. I enjoyed the FiiF week so much that after the festival I decided that this is what I want to do more of. Much more. I feel like it was really a turning point. I had been dreaming of doing more improv and going to improv festivals abroad for years, but hadn’t really done anything about it. At FiiF2017 I got to know great improvisers from Munich, Germany, who were encouraging me to apply to their festival called Improvember.
That decision brought me to Munich in November 2017, where I took a three-day course on how to improvise serious topics, like racism, with a comedic twist. That was my first time doing improv abroad and it opened up a whole new world of improv to me. In Improvember I also saw great shows, like a kung-fu-improv show by a group called Harri Olli from Switzerland, which was full of tropes from kung-fu movies (Btw, the group gets its name from the Finnish ski jumper Harri Olli).
Impressed by the skilfull genre improv I went back to Finland and soon applied to play in the house team of YesFinland called Tropes. I made the team and since January we have been practicing our first genre show inspired by Film Noir style. The team is coached by the FiiF founder and artistic director Trent Pancy.
Now after 5 years from my first FiiF, I’m part of the FiiF staff. As a journalist and improviser, the logical step for me was to combine both of my passions, and I’m glad to be able to do that as the press producer and a player in FiiF 2018. I’m also getting to be the official tour guide for FiiF Players before the festival this year.
After my decision in last year’s FiiF to really invest in improv, I think I have learned more about this art form in a year than in all the years before. I’ve gotten to train with two different improv teams and taken almost all improv classes available at YesFinland (previously known as the ImprovAcademy) and in a few other places as well. I can’t wait too see what happens in FiiF2018 and how it will influence my improv future!