Taipei Improv Festival 2021: Embrace the Change

Formosa Improv Group 福爾摩沙即興組合(FIG) will be hosting Taipei’s first bilingual improv festival from December 3rd-5th of 2021 with the theme of “Embrace the Change” or 【擁抱改革】。Below we share the thoughts and expectations regarding this festival’s theme and how it relates to improv and the world around us, as told by the festival organizers.

The official festival logo designed by FIG Marketing Director and performer, Lizette Hansen. “Embrace the change” means for me to challenge myself to embrace changes instead of being controlled by by them.”

Expecting the Unexpected

If there’s one lesson that the Covid-19 pandemic has taught the world it’s that we have to be prepared to expect the unexpected. Although Taiwan was spared much of the worst of the coronavirus early on, and life seemed to be proceeding somewhat “normally” throughout 2020, the island bubble existence of halcyon days experienced a harsh reality check starting in May of 2021 when an unprecedented wave of infections forced the government to raise pandemic restrictions to level 3. As businesses and classes went online, people scrambled for limited vaccine resources and the people of Taiwan had to make quick adaptations that the rest of the world had been dealing with for the past year. In the blink of an eye, Taiwan went from relaxed “business as usual” to raised levels of caution and alert, and while case numbers have paled in comparison to other areas of the globe, it was a rude awakening for the relatively sheltered island.

Inspiration from Abroad

Despite being inexperienced with leading online workshops and performing in online shows, FIG had the advantage of being able to reach out and learn from those improv groups who had been (and still are) experimenting with the world of online improv across the globe. The group collaborated with members of Singapore’s ASAP improv group, as well as involving FIG alumni members now living in different time zones to assist in hosting remote workshops for the Taipei improv community on Zoom. Besides hosting online workshops and shows, FIG also recently joined the Improvisasian Improv Festival, spearheaded by Third World Improv, based out of the Philippines. The festival itself was executed entirely online and involved predominantly ethnic Asian improv groups from across the globe.

Stuck snugly in a late night Sunday spot, members of FIG participated in the Improvisasian Festival, even performing portions of the show in Taiwanese. “The biggest reason why we made the festival is to show the world that improv does not have to be on centered in the West. Theres a very diverse improv culture that you can find in Asia and in different parts of the world too!” — Improvisasian Improv Festival organizer and member of Third World Improv, Karl Echaluse

The vision of the Improvisasian Festival was to:

Be a celebration of Asian improv, cultures, stories, and perspectives

Have conversations about our experiences

Build connections across Asian improvisers and communities

“Accept being uncomfortable. Accept transformation. Things always change and they are never the same.” FIG community participant, Jeanette Michelle.

In the last few years, we have seen more diversity and more light shed on minority groups, allowing us to celebrate their creativity and energy left in the shadows for too long. — FIG performer and Administrative Director, Diana Liu

Growing a Grassroots Theme

Inspired by a combination of the incredible work the organizers of the Improvisasian Improv Festival put into their event, FIG’s previous experience of joining the 2019 Manila Improv Festival, as well as 2021 being FIG’s 3rd year anniversary, the group decided to take a chance in planning a festival in collaboration with improv communities around Asia. In accordance with its core value of building bridges across improv communities FIG will be hosting the “Embrace The Change” festival in December; however, the festival doesn’t belong to FIG, but rather to the improv community at large with different Taiwan-based groups being invited for the 3 day event.

Keeping the theme of community building in mind, members took advantage of the online workshops to use interactive tools when brainstorming the festival theme. At the end of one of the weekly online workshops with the focus of “Teamwork,” the facilitator shared a Google Jamboard link with the participants asking those involved to help create the yet-to-be decided festival theme itself.

Pictured above is the online google jamboard (still live!) where FIG community workshop participants helped brainstorm the festival theme. “FIG members are very open minded and care more about the process than the result. We also live in an era where it seems like we need to be ready for anything, any in person event could become online at any notice, and this requires us to be able to be nimble and mobile.” FIG community member and guest performer, Rosalyn Shih.

Reflections on “Embrace the Change”

The pandemic has hit the world for the past 2 years, and things are only now hitting a new normal. I believe that “embracing the change” embodies that we should not try and make things go back to what they were before COVID-19 but instead embracing it and finding a new normal. — FIG Marketing Director and Performer, Lizette Hansen

Lizette Hansen pictured here with a very thirsty FIG Venue Director and performer, William Openshaw: “Improv helps me to become used to and comfortable with things changing, especially things that are out of my control.” — Lizette Hansen.

Considering the countless challenges and forced changes the last two years have brought both in Taiwan and abroad, I feel this theme aptly represents the resolution to accept the new reality and to make the most out of unideal circumstances. The very act of organizing such a festival is a way to declare ownership of our livelihoods, rather than simply waiting for things to “get better” or “return to normal”, which seemed to be the prevailing attitude throughout most of the world last year. — FIG performer, Andrei Veja

From left to right: FIG Administrative Director and performer, Diana Liu, and FIG performer Andrei Veja. “Improv is all about accepting what has already been established, while always remaining flexible enough to abandon an idea when it no longer serves the greater objective.” — Andrei Veja
As with many groups, FIG has maintained a healthy balance of hybrid improv throughout the pandemic, and some level of digital improv will most certainly remain as the group continues to push its own boundaries. “While I hope most performances and workshops can be held in person, it would be cool to see certain elements of the festival, such as discussion panels, accessible online. At the same time, I’m curious to see the formats and performances that participating troupes create and choose that are inspired by the theme.” FIG Administrative Director and performer, Diana Liu (top center).
Seen here with a pandemic-inspired poster is FIG’s current Finance Director and performer, Phoebe Cheng. “[Embrace the Change] is the embodiment of “Yes, and…” which is the basic idea of improv.”

I hope that the workshops and performances will motivate others to embrace the change in their lives. Whether we create an inspirational story on stage or challenge participants to move away from their comfort zone, I hope that the festival brings a new sense of awareness and instills confidence in others when facing adversity. — FIG Administrative Director and performer, Diana Liu

Members of FIG seen here, “embracing the change” and switching to animated versions of themselves as envisioned and designed by Marketing Director and performer, Lizette Hansen. For more information about festival details, please follow FIG’s Facebook, and welcome to join the weekly Monday workshops (online until November), and shows (in person at Two Three Comedy and Red Room Rendezvous)!

American residing in Asia since 2004. Blogs focusing on life observations, improv, food, creating a learning organisation, management, and stretching time.