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Welcome to San Diego TheatreSports!

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Once upon a time...

...long long ago, in the days of Donna Summer music, tight Sergio Valente jeans, and Watergate Scandals, there lived an improvisation teacher named Keith Johnstone. Actually, he was not much affected by the Watergate scandals, because he lived in a faraway land called England, where they have scandals all of their own.

Keith pondered how to get audiences to come see the creative talents of his students. "What events do people go to?" he thought. And the answer was clear: Sporting events! You know, like rugby? And cricket? Keith set out to create a format for his improvisation work ("impro", as it is called in England) that was more like a sporting event than a theatre show. The result was TheatreSports, a competition between two teams of improvisationalists to create better scenework. Years later, he developed a second format called "Gorilla Theatre" in which players compete to direct the best scene. Directors of poor scenes are punished by audience for making them endure mediocrity!

The word of TheatreSports spread and chapters started popping up all over the world--even in the grand old USA, (where, for no apparent reason, we decided that the word "Impro" should be changed to "Improv"). Keith, meanwhile, relocated to Calgary because he felt it was time to trade in the miserable rainy climate of England for the miserable snowbound climate of Canada.

So now let's leap to 1992, where an improv troupe called "The Grunions" was playing in such outstanding venues as "The Ocean Beach Pier Bait Shop." Surely you've been there? One member, named Laurie O'Neill, had had some TheatreSports training in the Bay Area years before. She decided that it was time to found a chapter in San Diego and the Grunions let out a loud "Hurrah!," mostly because they hadn't a clue how much work they were in for.

Los Angeles TheatreSports was excited about the idea of a sister chapter to the south and agreed to run training workshops to get San Diego TheatreSports off the ground. Players from other troupes like Humor Beings, Creative Urges, and Planet Mirth came aboard, along with newcomers to the world of improv. An old, abandoned theatre was found in the Gaslamp -- with all the charm of the Addams Family home after an earthquake. But it was slowly transformed into a comfy little cabaret where San Diego TheatreSports was launched in June of `93. We've moved since then and some of the faces have changed (well, actually the whole person, not just the face), but thanks to lots of hard work and some dedicated players studying in Calgary, San Diego TheatreSports is better than ever, so . . . enjoy the show!!

Okay, but what is TheatreSports?

TheatreSports is improvisational theatre with a competitive twist. Most often it is hilarious, but there can be some compelling and dramatic scenes as well. San Diego TheatreSports usually performs in one of the following formats:

"Classic" TheatreSports

Where two teams compete to create better scenework.

The Teams
TheatreSports teams can range in size anywhere from three to five players per team.
The Challenges
The teams take turns issuing challenges to each other, and playing them out. Challenges can be to a specific type of improv game ("we challenge you to a verbal restiction scene"), or they can be more general ("we challenge you to a scene about greed"). There are literally hundreds of improv games that a team can choose to play, and more are being invented all the time.
The Judges
Traditionally, a TheatreSports match is judged by three Olympic-style judges, who impartial award the scores after the scenes. They also enforce any penalties that occur during play and the word of The Judges is final. They are introduced at the start of the show with the "traditional booing of The Judges." However, in San Diego we usually leave the scoring up to
The Audience
At the end of a challenge The Audience gets to shout out which team they think did a better job. This is also called a "Danish Match" because this type of match was first played in Denmark. The arbiter who listens to The Audience and determines which team won the challenge is
The Referee
This person introduces the show, explains the rules, and is responsible for keeping the show moving. In the absence of The Judges, this person is also in charge of Scoring and Penalties.
Each of The Judges has score cards that range from zero (lowest) to five (highest). Fives are rare and are only awarded for a truly superior performance. If The Audience is judging, the team that won that round receives 5 points.
Penalties are awarded for gratuitous humor, outside the context of the scene. If The Judges/Referee feel that a player's lines were intended to get a cheap laugh rather than to advance the story, the can inflict a "bag" to that player. The player must wear a bag over their head for two minutes and cannot take place in any scenes during that time.

Gorilla Theatre

Where players compete against each other as "Directors" trying to direct the best scene.

The Directors
This form of TheatreSports needs four to six players. Each player gets a chance to direct multiple scenes using the other players.
The Scenes
The Director chooses an improv game and directs the other players in a scene based on that game. The Director nudges the players when they start getting off the theme and declares the official "End Scene" where the scene has either attained its most glorious zenith, or is terminated as a mercy killing for the good of everyone.
The Audience
At the end of a scene The Audience gets to shout out either "Banana!" or Forfeit!" These are time-honored magical phrases that call the attention of the Muses of Improv. If "Banana!" is called, The Director gets to pin a cloth banana on his/her shirt. If The Audience calls out "Forfeit!" The Director hangs his/her head in shame and must appease the Muses of Improv by playing out a forfeit penalty that is drawn from a ceramic duck. Typical forfeits include "improvise a limmerick," "beg The Audience for forgiveness," or "sing a theme from a TV show."
Yes, this is where we explain the bananas. At the end of the show, The Directors come forth and compare how many bananas they have accumulated. The winner with the most bananas gets to go home with the gorilla (courtesy of the San Diego Zoo, of course) for a weeks worth of quality time with the simian. In case you haven't figured it out, this is why it is called "Gorilla Theatre."

A Brief Guide to Improv Etiquette

Players "do's"

;-) Endowment--giving another player some information about his/her character, like a name, job, or personality trait.

;-) Overacceptance--fully accepting an offer made by another, no matter how odd or how different from what you were planning to do next.

;-) Risking--making a statement or action with no idea how it will affect the plot. Gotta take chances!

;-) Leaving--Sometimes, the best thing you can do for a scene is to get off the stage when your character isn't needed anymore!

Players "don'ts"

:-( Blocking--Ignoring or refusing an offer of the plot or your character made by another player; shame on you!

:-( Driving--trying to force the story to go the way you imagine it, even if that means blocking or refusing to let others get a word in edgewise.

:-( Gagging--being exceptionally goofy, "punny", or outrageous at the expense of the scene.

:-( Waffling--failing to identify mimed objects; not being clear about what you are trying to do in the scene. Get to the point!

As For Improv Audience Etiquette...

Audience "do's"

;-) Enthusiasm--Giving us a lot of good, spirited energy is so important in contributing to the energy we give back.

;-) Patience--The nature of improv is one of winging it. Since we can't anticipate every action or rehearse each moment, we may need a little time to keep things on track for you.

;-) Support--YOU are our best advertising. If you have fun tonight, please tell friends and bring them back with you. There's no better audience member than a "regular!" With your support, we hope to be around for a long time.

Audience "don'ts"

:-( Talking--We love a lively audience that is eager to contribute to the evening, but please hold it until requested!

:-( Gagging--You, too, can be a Gagger! Overly-creative, obscure suggestions may get you a quick laugh from The Audience, but it may also lead to a cruddy scene.

:-( Crudeness--We try to put on a show that won't offend. We aim for a level of comedy above the cheap jokes we hear so often in stand-up. So if you don't call out bathroom humor, we won't have to politely refuse it.

Who We Are

San Diego TheatreSports is proud to be the San Diego chapter of TheatreSports International. We join a chain including close to sixty troupes across the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Europe, Russia, and South Africa. All troupes are invited to compete annually at the international gathering. Our goal is to promote goodwill across cultures through a sharing of laughter. The motto is: "Think Globally. . . Laugh Locally!"

If you think what we're doing looks like fun, you're right! We offer TheatreSports training, just for fun or to get you performing with us. We also have contact with local classes where you can play improv games in a relaxed, non-performance atmosphere just for fun and making friends. Call or come talk to us!

TheatreSports can be a unique event for your social group either in our performance area or at the location of your choosing. Contact us for information on arrangements and pricing. We have a Current Events Schedule online, you could call our hotline at 619/465-SHOW (that's 619/465-7469), you can look us up in "The Reader," or check out the Thursday Union-Tribune's "Night and Day" section.


This section has been moved to our Current Event Information page.


This section has been moved to our Current Event Information page.


This section has been moved to our Current Event Information page.

How to Contact Us

Our Feedback page is finally up and running.
Here is a list of various e-mail addresses you can send mail to, listed approximately in order of importance:
You can hear event information or leave a message on the San Diego TheatreSports Hotline 619/465-SHOW (that's 619/465-7469).
Post Office
My goodness. Does anyone send letters anymore?
San Diego TheatreSports
c/o 5157 Biltmore St.
San Diego, CA 92117

A TheatreSports Mailing List

If you want to keep up-to-date on the San Diego TheatreSports events and happenings, you can join the TheatreSports Mailing List. If you don't want to use the Web Interface to subscribe, you can always send e-mail to <defunct> with the message SUBSCRIBE THEATRESPORTS (leave the subject blank). This list is meant to distribute any sort of information about TheatreSports. Right now it is primarily being used to tell people when San Diego TheatreSports is performing, but any discussion of TheatreSports is welcome and encouraged!

Other TheatreSports Troupes

There is a nice list over in ShepWeb: TheatreSports

[ SD TheatreSports Logo ]

TheatreSports is (TM) Keith Johnstone.
This archived page originally created by "Jeff Shepherd" - <>
Last updated: 2/12/97, 6/17/02, rendered 6/17/02 using Frontier 5 and BBEdit on a Macintosh