"The Canadian Improv Games
is a non-profit organization
dedicated to providing quality improvisational theatre
training to teams
of high school students
(Taken from the CIG website
The Canadian Improv Games has its roots in the Ottawa-Carleton High School Improv Olympics, which began in 1978 with eight teams from Ottawa area schools participating. By 1981, the Ottawa Improv Olympics had 24 teams competing, but this success didn't last; some Ottawa teachers were opposed to the idea of theatre being connected with judged competition. Consequently, the Olympics lost many of its teams. The Ottawa Improv Olympics built itself up again, though, and in 1985 the competition drew in 30 teams. At this point, it was decided to expand the competition outside of Ottawa, and to simplify and streamline the rules. With this, the Canadian Improv Games was born. The new rules focused much more on theatre fundamentals and skills, and allowed improvisors with diverse backgrounds besides the Ottawa Improv Olympics (such as TheatreSports) to learn and adjust quickly, and to build on existing knowledge and skill.
The Games slowly expanded beyond Ottawa, to other Ontario cities and towns within driving distance. In 1987, the National Arts Centre English Theatre became the primary sponsor of the CIG, and insisted that the Games become national very quickly. So Johnson Moretti, the General Manager of the Games at the time, said, "Alright, give me 7,000 bucks and I'll fly to Vancouver, train a team, and bring it back to play." The plan worked, and in the following years, Johnson visited more cities and got more recruits. In 1991, the NAC decided to give the Games more exposure by covering the costs of television coverage for the games for three years. YTV picked up the broadcast rights, and new teams started signing up from schools all over the country. Now, teams from more than 300 schools across Canada participate each year.
The Canadian Improv Games Oath, repeated before every night of play, defines the purpose and values of the Games:
We have come together
In the spirit of loving competition
To celebrate the Canadian Improv Games
We promise to uphold the ideals of improvisation
To co-operate with one another
To learn from each other
To commit ourselves to the moment
And above all...
To Have A Good Time.
The great thing about the oath is that the competitors actually take it to heart. All the teams applaud along with the whole audience for each scene played, and the teams really work together to put on a great show.
Teams consist of up to eight members, and choose four out of five possible events to perform in a given night of play (the life game is mandatory):
Before each event, the team asks for one or more variables from the audience which determine the course of the scene (e.g. "we'd like an occupation and a characteristic"). The theme in the theme event is drawn from a hat of pre-made themes. Teams are allowed up to 4 minutes for each scene, with a 15 second huddle beforehand to decide things like what the main purpose of the scene's action is, who will play the main character(s), and where the starting location will be. Scenes are scored by a panel of judges and the sum of a team's individual event scores make up their total score for the night.
There are 12 regional tournaments (as of 2001), held in:
- Vancouver, British Columbia
- Edmonton, Alberta
- Regina, Saskatchewan
- Winnipeg, Manitoba
- Sudbury, Ontario
- Toronto, Ontario
- Kingston, Ontario
- Ottawa, Ontario
- Waterloo, Ontario
- Montréal, Québec
- Moncton, New Brunswick
- St. John's, Newfoundland
The video competition exists primarily for teams too far away from regional tournaments to compete in them, though any team is allowed to enter. The team video tapes themselves playing 4 scenes just as in a night of play in a regional or national competition, and sends the tape in to the CIG to be judged.
Finalists from the regional tournaments and the video competition are invited to Ottawa for the week long national tournament. The top 5 teams from the national preliminaries advance to the national finals, where the national champions are decided.
The love, excitement, and mutual respect and comraderie present in the room on a night of play is absolutely mind-blowing. The energy that the teams receive from the audience is returned through the liveliness, spontaneity, and simple joy present in their scenes. It's the best rush I've ever experienced.