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Bright Lights At The 2023 Canadian Improv Games

Ladysmith Improv-Canadian Improv Games

The 2023 Canadian Improv Games (CIG) is in the books. Late Sunday night the plane from Ottawa landed at the Nanaimo Airport, carrying six happy, talented, and very tired Ladysmith Senior Improv performers from our very own Ladysmith Secondary School.

I know I wrote about this in my earlier post, Arts Education In Schools-An Improv Story, but now that they’re back, it’s time to update. If you haven’t seen anything on Facebook, or Instagram, then read on.

Zachary and his pals on the Ladysmith Senior Improv group earned a ticket to the Nationals by pulling off a regional victory on Vancouver Island back in late February. Zach tells me that expectations for getting a first place finish were not very high. They have a couple of tough competitors on the Island, and he really wasn’t expecting much more than third place.

But that didn’t happen, and they did pull off a first place win! And so the trip to Ottawa was theirs to make.

With all the fundraising complete, as I outlined in my last post, the kids headed to our nation’s capitol last Tuesday. Their first performance was Wednesday night. They were one of four teams to participate that evening.

The semifinals for CIG Nationals consisted of 14 teams from across the country, whittled down from about 300 teams. The semis ran for three nights; Ladysmith and three other teams on Wednesday, five more teams on Thursday, and the last five on Friday night. Each team would perform 4 different timed scenes, or events. The scenes were 4 minutes each. Following a set criteria, judges would score each scene. The points were totaled up and announced at the end of each evening.

In Canadian Improv Games, The Points Matter, But They Also Don’t

After all teams had done their semifinal performances, the five teams with the most points advanced to the finals on Saturday night. So how did Ladysmith do?

Ladysmith was on fire for their semifinals. In their group of four teams, the LADs dominated. Between the fourth place team and second place, the point difference was 42. The second place team had 777 points. At 852 points, Ladysmith took first with a point lead of 75!

The second night of 5 teams saw the first place team finish with 745 points. So Ladysmith was still in the first spot. But on the last night, a couple of the five final teams were hot. The winner of the night led with 822 points, the only other team besides Ladysmith to exceed 800 points.

But the LADs were in the top 5 with the most points, and would go on to the finals on Saturday night! Holy crap, this was getting exciting!

The Volunteers From Across The Country

This year’s competition was the first to be held live with an audience since 2019. The pandemic threw a giant wrench into the works, and the organizers weren’t even sure they could get this year’s show off the ground, let alone keep it going into the future. As a result, the CIG folks have been fundraising heavily. I think we know what that feels like!

But with only one paid staff, CIG relies entirely on volunteers. These dedicated, utterly committed, somewhat crazy people fly, drive, hitchhike, and walk from all over Canada to bring this competition to reality, all on their own dimes. And what an amazing job they do!

Spencer Dunn-Canadian Improv Games
Spencer Dunn, CIG Program Director. The only paid staff. Photo courtesy CIG

From technical support, to front and back of house; from music production, to judges and referees, these super-beings bring to life the CIG for the sheer joy of Improv.

Every night, and for every scene performed by these talented and courageous kids, the referees lit up the National Arts Centre with their over-the-top exuberance and wild enthusiasm. It was infectious, and everyone in the theatre became a part of it. The energy crackled down the livestream and into our own home. By far, it was the best thing on tv four nights in a row!

Saturday Night’s Alright For Improv

Saturday night and the CIG Finals. There are 6 teams surrounding the semi-circular stage tonight. There was a tie for the 5th place spot, so one extra team gets a chance at Improv glory. But at this point, it doesn’t really matter. These six teams represent the over 300 Improv groups from schools across Canada. In the big picture, these six teams have all won.

The energy was as electric as it had been for the three previous nights. The referees were still buzzing and bursting with unbridled enthusiasm. The audience was boisterous, and the teams were brilliant. So. Much. FUN!

The Kids Are Alright

When the teams had finished their scenes, and it was time for the amazing Spenser Dunn, the Program Director of CIG, to come out and read out the winners, I realized that it was true. The points didn’t matter. These wonderful kids had shown me something else during their timed events over the last 4 nights.

I’ve always fretted about bringing kids into the world. When Heather was pregnant with Zach, I worried about the kind of world our children would be living in. What right did I have, introducing kids to the crap we had helped create? And as Zach, and later Beth-Rose, got older, I would often hear so many people running down the “kids of today” as spoilt, entitled little losers. “These are our future leaders!?”

After watching these kids over the last 4 days, I’m not fretting so much. Now I know it doesn’t matter if these young adults go on to become leaders, or advocates, or movers and shakers. Because they’re already amazing human beings. Even if they just go on to lead normal, ordinary lives, the impact they make on those around them will be enough. The world is already better off for having these kids in it.

Oh, and Zachary and his brave group of Improvisers? They took third place.

LADs For Life!

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John Burr
John Burr
1 year ago

Awesome night for all!
Like in so many endeavours, once you get to the finals all competitors are first place winners. And all the teams that didn’t make the finals are second place winners. But they are all winners.

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