An improvisational organization founded by Keith Johnstone in Calgary, Alberta in 1978. The organization (or theatrical chain) is an offshoot of Loose Moose Theatre, a Calgary company founded in 1977. Theatresports developed by stages over the seventies from an intimate and loosely structured game played between two competing teams of Johnstone’s students and former students from the University of Calgary into a sporting event played the world over.
As the name indicates, the game has attributes of both theatre and sports. Teams of actors vie for control of the stage by performing improvised scenes. A team gains stage time by performing the most entertaining scene and earning the most points, as decided by a panel of judges. In the end, the team with the most points wins. Over time, other variations on this basic format have evolved, including “The Danish Game” which foregoes the judges and allows the audience to choose a winner, and “The Challenge Match” which sees each team alternately challenging the other to specific improvised games. The team winning the most challenges wins the match.
Similar to Ligue Nationale d’Improvisation, these improvised games can be funny and esoteric, but are always competitive. Theatresports is now played by teams on six continents, and an international improvisational Theatresports school convenes annually in Calgary. Theatresports is licensed to the International Theatresports Institute (ITI).
Emerging out of Theatresports have been a number of other related but structurally unique improvisational forms including “The Life Game” (improvisational scenes based upon live interviews with invited guests) and “Gorilla Theatre” (a series of directed improvisations with greater focus upon the director as improviser). See also: Canadian Improv Games.
Further Reading: Kathleen Foreman and Clem Martini, eds. Something like a drug: an unauthorized oral history of theatresports. Red Deer, AB: Red Deer College Press, 1995.
Keith Johnstone. Improv for Storytellers. London: Faber and Faber, 1999.
Profile by Clem Martini, University of Calgary
Last updated 2022-01-14