Bicultural | brewing improv ideas

Given Mithra’s recent Diversity Experiment hangout last week, I am sharing a slice of what I have thought about diversity and improv, as a precursor to my evolving thoughts on colorized improv.

In April 2015, I sent to a few friends, who also are improvisors, a series of Facebook messages – stream-of-consciousness typing about my (then) idea of bicultural improv. It was somewhat food-for-thought. Since then, a few friends have responded. I met with one of them to discuss our perspectives about the context of diversity, ethnicity, race, and gender.


From friend Judy’s Debut in the 1980s. A few of us who were part of her Court. My brother was her Escort.

A little about me. I consider myself bicultural. Even though I look Chinese and my last name is “Mexican” (as exclaimed by a college boyfriend who (seriously) thought Filipino was a mix of Chinese and Mexican), I am Filipino-American. I was born in the United States (in the south) to Filipino parents – the familiar Filipino background of a father in the Navy and a mother who was a nurse.

I am a single, 51 years old, cis female without children or pets living in the San Francisco Bay Area. I am an Auntie to my younger brother’s son and daughter – both in high school. I was raised Roman Catholic and attended public school until my high school years at a co-ed Catholic High School.

If my professional history matters to you, let me know why. I am on LinkedIn – an engineer by education, an business owner by choice, and a proponent of the environment and energy sector. I consider myself hard-working, accountable, fair, and forthright. I am short and overweight. I own shoes and books – many of them.

This post is a slightly edited version (for readability) of my five part Facebook messages –

Background Ah-Ha Moment
Fuzzy Two-Fold Objective
Short Version
Long Version

Idea Brewing

panda_teacherI’ve mentioned to you all an improv idea that has been brewing in my head – something that has cultural/racial elements. Bicultural bent of sorts. And as I have been thinking about it, I like the idea more and more … yet I’m sure you all would have ideas.

I’m not in a rush … and in fact, anyone can start doing the idea even now in your own improv – but will be great to jam this idea at some point.

(Part 0) Background Ah-Ha Moment

I saw a FB improv event several months ago for a show in L.A. that was for something like Brown and Yellow … the players are of “brown or yellow” races.

panda_teacherI don’t know what kind of improv, but it got me to thinking. While I am not thinking of a “People of Color” (POC) jam, I have wondered what improv would look like with scenes that may be relate-able to POC.

I don’t often see scenes that have cultural context – which can be settings where characters play out a Filipino debutante ball, picking out a quinceanera dress, inter-racial dating, first generation graduating from college, immigrant family members, etc.

I have started making some character choices based on some cultural context, and I have enjoyed it – sometimes challenging (in a good way).

I have naively thought things like cultural, ethnic, race wouldn’t matter, but there is something that feels different and fun and … just pulling characters that have traits like friends, family, and colleagues that inform my point of view and familiar cultural-setting environments can become really interesting … or even near/distant characters of myself.

Maybe this is kind of solo-y … improv-y … sketch-y … improv to sketch. It’s not intended to be that – but I think this Bicultural Bent is like just focusing on what we know and making strong moves in 3 areas –

… character choice … point of view … top of one’s intelligence …

– and the bicultural experience may be interesting. For me, it’s just a different feeling, and I feel like I’m learning something about myself toward playing at the “top of my intelligence”, as well as being able to pull point of view faster, for whatever reason

By the way, this is not a “down with whitey” thing. It’s more of a a broadening of the type of scenes, relationships, environments, etc. that we could do as an improvisor.

(Part 1) Idea

Just POC improvisors with scenes that are directly or indirectly tied to bicultural experiences with character choices that consider ethnicity and race and play to top of one’s intelligence.

panda_teacherHow the scenes come about … I don’t know yet.

–  Maybe we are doing “premise pulls” from our own mini-monologues. (the Armando-esque-ish)
– Maybe montage-ey. (the improv jam-ish)
– Maybe living room-y. (The Pedestrian-ish)
– Maybe we’re reading from cultural text (The Letters-ish)
– Maybe we are doing a character paint (Harold-esque opening)

Also … this doesn’t mean that if someone chose a Filipino debutante ball, everyone in the scene if Filipino – it just means the environment or setting or whatever is that.

Is this making sense?

Thoughts to add to Part 1?

(Part 2) Fuzzy Two-Fold Objective

panda_teacher1.  For us as the performers, hitting hard the basics of character and point of view

2.  For a set, what the audience sees – bringing scenes and/or dialogues that are a slice of cultural context, something new

(Part 3) Short Version

See Part 1, “IDEA” with how the scenes may come about.

(Part 4) Long Version

To be discovered . . . your input, thoughts.

panda_teacherIt may sound heady, but it’s not intended to be so.

I was telling a friend this afternoon . . . it may be as simple as me creating a character based on my Godmother (who is Filipino) sitting at a slot machine at Cache Creek.

I could do this anyway, now, and I likely will – but I feel like if I do something like this among other improvisors also moving toward scenes that support a cultural (or ethnic or racial) context of sorts, there could be some really interesting discovery and clever interactions that are fresh.

… so maybe it’s kind of like sketch. i don’t know …

but that’s it for now.

(I need to go home, sleep, and not sit next to this guy in this Los Gatos coffee shop who is mouth-breathing because he has a MAJOR COLD!)

Thanks for entertaining this.

What are your thoughts about bicultural improv? What do you relate to or not relate to?



One thought on “Bicultural | brewing improv ideas

  1. Pingback: Experiment | improv, race, food for thought | an improvised life (dot) me

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