Sunday 2 September 2018

Escaping Into Reality, Part One

“The key to improvisation is motion – you keep moving forward,
fearful or not, living from moment to moment. That’s how life is...”
- Bobby McFerrin, American Musician

This blog post is the first of two where I’ll be looking at the concept of performance art and improvisation, with accompanying photographs.

Today’s post features images from Fan Expo Canada 2018 – “...the largest Comics, Sci-Fi, Horror, Anime, and Gaming event in Canada and the third largest Pop Culture event in North America...” – which is being held this weekend at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. My camera and I spent several happy hours at Fan Expo on Friday, breathing in the energy, passion, and weirdness of this annual event. I was surrounded by thousands of fans, many of whom were dressed in the costumes and paraphernalia of their favourite fantasy characters. And such wondrous costumes they were! The hairdos and makeup alone were worth the price of admission. And all these folks seemed to be having a great time. And, of course, it was a feast for the camera.

I had never been at a mass ‘Cosplay’ event before. According to the online Oxford English Dictionary, Cosplay is a term first used in Japan in 2008. It refers to “dressing up in costume as a character from anime or manga; now extended to characters from video games.”

It took a few minutes on Friday for the penny to drop about what was happening: there was a giant role-playing improvisation exercise going on, without any script. These people were joyously winging it!

I am no stranger to improvisation and role-playing, having used them for many years when teaching drama. The willingness to immerse oneself in another person’s life is central to all forms of developmental drama. As an approach to shedding inhibitions and learning about oneself and others, it is without parallel. The very act of willingly ceding control of a situation to the group while simultaneously developing one’s own self-confidence is an invaluable experience. It doesn’t matter that most drama students never become professional actors – the skills they learn, from poise under pressure to trusting one’s informed instincts, serve them well wherever their lives take them.

And that’s the joy of what I witnessed on Friday: hundreds of people immersing themselves in a giant improvisation. They were escaping into new realities. And learning about so-called ‘real life’ at the same time.

Good on them, say I!

I intend to return to this theme next week with a set of very different images. Meanwhile, enjoy!

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